A proud Shalom College

December 15, 2014 by J-Wire Staff
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Six indigenous doctors have become medical doctors today…all six received residential scholarships from Shalom College at the University of NSW.

The Young Doctors

Khyarne Biles, Murray Haar, Jessica Wade, Laura Fitzgerald, Ty Clayworth and Haylee Solomons Pic: Henry Benjamin


David Gonski, Chancellor of University of New Wales who presented the new doctors with their degrees spoke to J-Wire after the graduations.

He said it was important to have the students living within the campus, especially in their first few years of study and he recognised the contribution Shalom College made towards the success of the Scholarship students.

“ This University has always been inclusive, taking in immigrants and people of all colour and creeds.

“I am very proud that we have these six medical graduates here today” he said.

Gonski singled out Hilton Immerman, CEO of The Shalom Institute and Shalom College for his hard work on the Shalom Gamarada Indigenous Scholarship Program , describing him as a “man of vision”.


Khyarne Biles, Laura Fitzgerald, Haylee Solomons, Tyron Clayworth, Auntie Aly Golding, Dr Hilton Immerman, Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver.

Murray Haar, one of the graduates said that having a “roof over my head, a place to stay” was great during his first few years of study.

Graduate Laura Fitzgerald, who stayed at Shalom College for the six years she attended UNSW, felt that the advantage of not having to work to support herself allowed her the freedom to progress quickly through the course. “I also enjoyed the community feel of living in the College” she said.

Haylee Solomons told J-Wire that not needing to support herself and living on campus was a great advantage as well as giving her access to all the available support. Tyron Clayworth made similar observations, added that living in the College was the “best two years of my life” and he made lasting friendships there.

Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver, Chair of Indigenous Health at UNSW and co-founder of The Scholarship Program felt that such achievements could only improve Indigenous health in the long term. The first two years of their degree was particularly critical for the students and the program supported them.

Khyarne Biles, Laura Fitzgerald, Tyron Clayworth, Murray Haar, Haylee Solomons,  and Jessica Wade are all registered Shalom College scholars. The conferring of six degrees in any one year is a record for the College.

The Chair of Indigenous Health at UNSW and co-founder of the Shalom Gamarada Indigenous Scholarship Program at Shalom College, Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver, commented: “Each student has been a residential scholar at Shalom College and flourished, overcoming the challenge of time away from family and friends to pursue medicine.”

Dr Hilton Immerman

Dr Hilton Immerman

CEO of the Shalom Institute and Master of Shalom College Dr Hilton Immerman told J-Wire: “The Shalom Gamarada Indigenous Scholarship Program started with 1 student in 2005.  In its ten years of operation, the Program has assisted a total of 67 Indigenous students.

In the semester just finished, we  had 28 Indigenous student living in Shalom College.  By noon today, the program will have had 14 Aboriginal graduates – including 10 doctors.  The critical element of success is for disadvantaged students to be able to live in a safe, secure and supportive environment which is conducive to study.  This is what Shalom College provided.  The program is an effective form of practical reconciliation in action is making a real contribution to closing the gap through education by increasing the number of Indigenous professionals.”



Students’ backgrounds:

Khyarne Biles

  • Balnaves Scholar; Shalom Gamarada Scholar for 6 years; Rural Doctors Network Scholar
  • Studied at: St George Clinical School. Working in: Dubbo
  • University entry through Nura Gili’s Pre-Medicine Program
Laura Fitzgerald and Kyarne Biles

Laura Fitzgerald and Kyarne Biles

Before studying medicine, Khyarne’s passion was netball – playing, coaching and umpiring – which she credits with keeping her sane during a punishing six-year study schedule. She is returning home to Dubbo to complete her junior doctor training and hopes to remain there as a specialist in either paediatrics or obstetrics, serving communities in far-western NSW.

“Without doubt, being away from my family has been my biggest challenge. Early on I had to compromise between my desire to succeed at university and my need to stay close to my family. Initially I was going home monthly, and sometimes fortnightly, because I just couldn’t cope. As medicine became a bit more demanding it meant the time available to get home was limited, so when I was there it was only family time, no medicine. That way I was able to enjoy the time I had. This has enabled me to maintain my commitment to both of these important aspects of my life.

“There were many times when I could have thrown in the towel but I kept at it, even with all the distractions, and I was fortunate enough to get through. The most important thing the scholarships have given me was feeling as though I could actually do medicine – there were people who believed in me and this made me eager to work hard and succeed. Studying at university is not easy; it will not be given to you. Put your head down, do the work and be confident in what you know.” 

Laura Fitzgerald

  • Shalom Gamarada Scholar for 6 years; Medicines Australia Scholar; Nura Gili Excellence Award 2013 – for academic performance
  • Studied at: Sutherland. Working at: St George
  • University entry through Nura Gili’s Pre-Medicine Program

Laura grew up in Canberra but her family comes from Murawari country in northern NSW/southern Queensland. She and her siblings are the first generation in her mother’s family to attend university. Her biggest challenge: “Believing in myself – that I could get through it”.

“There were many times I wanted to give up and run away, and resisting the urge took all the strength I had, and a lot of Mum’s, but I made it here and it is definitely worth it. Push through the pain. Remember that you’re here for a reason and that many people helped you get here and believe that you can do it. Do it for them when you don’t have motivation.

“Without an indigenous workforce closing the gap becomes impossible, and I am excited to be able to contribute to improving indigenous health. Of late, I keep remembering my old school motto: ‘Love life, have hope, be faithful and build futures more wondrous than you dare to dream’.”

Tyron Clayworth

  • Balnaves Scholar; Shalom Gamarada Scholar
  • Studied at: Port Macquarie Clinical School. Working in: Hunter/New England region
  • University entry through Nura Gili’s Pre-Medicine Program

A Buripai man who grew up in the Port Macquarie Hastings area, Tyron worked as a lifeguard in his hometown of Wauchope.  He did his elective placement on Hithadhoo in the Maldives.

“The Balnaves scholarship has made a massive difference to my ability to study medicine because of the financial challenges involved with relocating from the country to the big city. Balancing a part-time job whilst studying medicine was something that I was lucky enough to avoid, which meant that I could have more time to focus on the important things. I’m looking forward to what the next phase of this journey will bring.”


Murray Haar

  • Shalom Gamarada Scholar; Rural Doctors Network Scholar; AMA Indigenous Peoples Medical Scholar; Australian Indigenous Doctors Association SRC (2010); Indigenous Medical Student Placement Program (DoHA); Rotary Indigenous Health Award; General Practice Student Network Schwartz First Wave Award
  • Studied at: Sutherland Clinical School (Phase 3). Working in: Albury (Internship)
  • University entry through Nura Gili’s Pre-Medicine Program

A Wiradjuri man whose family hail from the NSW Riverina, Murray grew up in Punchbowl, Sydney. He worked at Sydney’s Kirketon Road Centre and hopes to specialise in psychiatry or pain medicine.

“The support and friendship of my fellow Indigenous medical students had a resounding impact on my ability to succeed. We encouraged each other through some very tough and trying times and carried each other to the finish line. I am proud to be graduating with one of my colleagues who I was with in Winter School back in 2006. It makes me so happy to know that I will be able to practice in a field that I am so passionate about, and to also have the ability to influence the health and wellbeing of other Aboriginal peoples, with a deepened understanding of cultural context.”

Haylee Solomons

  • Shalom Gamarada Scholar; Bernard Hendel Memorial Scholar; Rotary Indigenous Health Awardee
  • Studied at: South-west Sydney Clinical School. Working at: St Vincent’s
  • University entry through Nura Gili’s Pre-Medicine Program

Haylee is a champion ice-skater who has competed across Australia and overseas, both individually and as captain of a synchronised figure-skating team. She is also a coach, and stresses the importance, when studying something as demanding as medicine, of making time for the things you love.

“A lot of med students have described feeling guilty when doing activities that aren’t medicine-related. However, I have noticed that I am far more productive knowing I have two solid hours on a particular night after skating in which to accomplish my work, and am energised after a morning session on the ice before morning rounds at hospital. I feel that skating is a part of who I am, and in whatever it is that you do it is important not to lose sight of that.

“The Shalom Gamarada Scholarship has provided me with more than just a place to live. Being able to study medicine in an environment where everyone understands and appreciates the demands of university is an invaluable gift for me as a person who comes from a family where no-one has ever finished high school. The state of Indigenous health in Australia at the moment has to be addressed – the Shalom Gamarada scholarship puts me and many other indigenous students in a position to do this.”

Jessica Wade

  • Shalom Gamarada Scholar; Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholar; Una and Harley Wood Scholar; Balnaves ILP Award; Nura Gili Spirit Award 2014 – recognising persistence, resilience, academic growth and attitude
  • Studied at: Southwest Sydney Clinical School. Working in: Bankstown
  • University entry through Nura Gili’s Pre-Medicine Program

A Nyoongar woman from south-west Perth, Jessica grew up on Gadigal land in south-west Sydney. Gave birth to a son Tristan, now 4, during her studies, and took a year off to work as an Aboriginal Health Officer at Marumali in Liverpool. She hopes to become a GP and work in her local area.


“My journey through medicine has been amazing. I have had a great deal of support from the Rural Clinical School and Nura Gili throughout my studies, and for this I am grateful. I am looking forward to the next few years working as a Junior Medical Officer in my community and starting my career as a doctor. What I love about medicine is that it’s so fast-paced and dynamic – no two days are the same. It’s also very rewarding to know I’m helping people and playing an important role in improving the health of my local community.”



2 Responses to “A proud Shalom College”
  1. David Baden says:

    Genuine congratulations to all,but can someone please explain to me how anyone can be classified as “indigenous” when it is obvious that most of, if not all, may have had some obscure aboriginal ancestor goodness knows how long ago.

  2. Celina Wines says:

    A wonderful story..

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