On the 7th of September 2015, ANU Medical School Students Amanda Steele and Jordan Savage both received the Peter Sharp Scholarship as a part of the ANU Medical School’s Indigenous Stream.

Recipients of the government funded scholarship, which is carried out through the ANU Medical School, receive $72 000 over four years.

The scholarship was created in 2012 in honour of Aboriginal health service Medical Director, Dr Peter Sharp. Dr Sharp was known for being very involved in the health and wellbeing of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the local region, and the scholarship was established to help encourage and support talented Indigenous students in studying medicine.

ACT Health Academic Unit of General Practice Director Professor Kirsty Douglas said that “Peter made a genuine commitment to local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.”

“This was strengthened by his clinical experience and understanding of the complex health, social, emotional and cultural needs of his patients,” she said.

Savage, a first year Medical student who is a Kaandju descendant on his mother’s side appreciated that “the scholarship will allow [him] to study more and spend less time working”. The scholarship will also provide him the opportunity to “attend conferences and such that [he] might not have otherwise been able to fund.”

For Steele, a Wiradjuri woman, the scholarship represents a push of motivation and support in continuing her students. In an interview with the ANU, she commented, “It reminds me why I am doing medicine, which is to hopefully make a difference in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples lives in regards to health and wellbeing”.

When asked why it was important to support indigenous students in the medical field, Indigenous Health Project Officer at ANU, Gaye Doolan, commented that it was ”because of the impact it has on indigenous peoples’ health”. She went on to comment that “it’s very powerful for them to see their own people coming to the forefront of the medical field”.

According to a study in 2014, only 204 doctors are Aboriginal in the whole of Australia.[1] 928 is the number of indigenous doctors that Australia needs to close the gap in Indigenous health outcomes.[2] Dooran commented that “there is a large gap in aboriginal health and it’s important to have aboriginal doctors in Australia. The numbers of aboriginal doctors is very low in comparison to the mainstream. We intended for this scholarship to help increase that number.”

[1] Funds needed to train Indigenous doctors’, Koori Mail 472 p.9
[2] ‘Blind, but soon they’ll see… Australia’s first indigenous eye doctor goes to work’, SMH 4/10/2014.