Medical students visit Kimberley and Pilbara communities

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Spring 12-9-2006

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle

Publication Place



Medical students from The University of Notre Dame Australia's, Fremantle Campus, recently spent 16 days visiting communities in the Kimberley and Pilbara regions.

The aim of the trip was for students to interact with local communities and health professionals to gain a deeper understanding of remote health issues.

The School of Medicine has a mission that graduate students will work in areas of unmet needs. The placement forms part of a four year program to expose students to rural and remote medicine and encourage them to consider a career in the field.

On arriving in the Kimberley students where billeted to pastoral stations, remote Aboriginal communities and town based organisations where they helped with day to day tasks.

Medicine student Katrina Heggie, who went to Mt Pierre, an Aboriginal station 100 kilometres from Fitzroy Crossing, said it was definitely the highlight of the trip.

“Mt Pierre is incredible; everyone in the community is so welcoming. It was great for us to experience Aboriginal culture and station life at the same time; it was a pretty unique opportunity. I would love to go up again to work,” said Ms Heggie

Another student, Jonathan Chambers said the trip was inspiring and he would now consider working in the Kimberley.

“I stayed in a station called Liveringa, near Derby, for five days which was fantastic. I would be keen to go back there, especially since I got to experience how people in the Kimberley live,” said Jonathan.

To finalise the trip students held a debate on whether their placements were of benefit to the areas they visited. Teams argued for and against the topic; Taking medical students to Aboriginal communities is “medical tourism” and of no benefit to the communities.

The negative team, Bernie Cregan, Pallas O’Hare and Annie Louise Ryan, won the debate. They argued their visit to Aboriginal communities taught them things “you couldn’t learn in a text book” and gave them better understanding of Aboriginal culture and the health care needed.

The debate was judged by Dr Neale Fong, Director General for Health in Western Australia, Professor Con Michael, Chair of the Medical Board of WA and Chair of the External Advisory Board for Notre Dame’s School of Medicine and Mayor of Fremantle, Mr Peter Tagliaferri. Mrs Ruth Webb-Smith, Vice President of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association and billet organiser also attended.

Mrs Webb-Smith said the whole concept behind the trip was getting medical students to look at the challenges of rural and remote medicine whilst helping them understand the issues of the area.

“The debate showed me that the students really experienced what we wanted them to. They realise they have had a life-time experience. I now think taking them to the Kimberley will have long term benefits to medicine in the North,” said Mrs Webb-Smith.