Joys and challenges of remote area life for Notre Dame med students

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Spring 2-10-2009

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame, Fremantle Campus

Publication Place



The red dust has settled and any tan achieved has now faded as Notre Dame medical students return from the joys and challenges of remote area life and the delivery of health care to one of Australia's remotest regions.

The hands-on experience is part of an innovative medical training program offered to medical students by The University of Notre Dame Australia since 2006. This year saw 105 second year students travel to the Kimberley where they were billeted out to stations and workplaces.

On arriving in Derby they spent time visiting the Leprosarium, Derby hospital and Aboriginal Health Service. They also participated in a linguistics workshop conducted by The Kimberley Interpreting Service.

During their time they were expected to contribute to the work of the host organisations such as pastoral stations, schools, remote Aboriginal communities, aged-and child-care centres with whom they have been billeted.

The students’ response to their experience was overwhelmingly positive. In a letter of thanks to their hosts they said, “The experiences we had in the Kimberley will live on in our hearts for a long time yet.

“We are all aware that we couldn’t have had anywhere near as amazing an experience if it wasn’t for your generosity and hospitality in inviting us into your lives. The experience we gained was not only extremely educational, eye-opening and inspiring but it was also a truckload of fun and a great opportunity for us to forge relationships in your part of the world.” Professor Donna Mak, Professor of Population and Preventive Health at Notre Dame is the scheme’s creator. Professor Mak worked as a general practitioner and public health physician in the Kimberley for 11 years before taking up her current position.

She explains, “Remote and rural Australia is an area of unmet need. While the nature of remote area medical practice might attract doctors to these areas, it’s not enough to keep them there. The doctors who stay and are effective are those who like living, as well as working, in remote areas.

"If we are serious about wanting to address inequalities in health status between rural/remote Australians and their urban counterparts, or between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians, we need to do everything in our power to encourage continuity of care, not a ‘revolving door’ of doctors.”

The innovative program was independently evaluated in 2008 by Professor Sandy Toussaint from the School of Social and Cultural Studies at The University of Western Australia.

Professor Toussaint reported in her findings that, “Overall the program was undoubtedly conceptualised by Kimberley individuals as something that had strong potential to bring about a greatly needed change in the health of women, men and children.”

Student Katy Algie summed up the experience, ““We had so much fun, learned so much and made unforgettable memories.”

Media contact: Michelle Ebbs 08 9433 0610, 0408 959 138