“There are now around 180 indigenous doctors and 260 (indigenous) medical students in Australia. However, there are approximately 80,000 doctors registered in Australia, so to reach parity of 3 per cent in the medical profession, it would require over 2400 additional indigenous doctors immediately,”
Dr Tom Calma addressing the National Press Club on Thursday, the same day he became University of Canberra chancellor and the first Indigenous man to hold such a position in Australia.
Pictured above : Tom Calma right being congratulated by NACCHO chair Justin Mohamed on behalf of all NACCHO’s 150 members : Photo Colin Cowell
Indigenous leader Tom Calma has warned the Abbott government that improving Indigenous education outcomes will take more than just getting bums on seats in classrooms.
Dr Calma said attendance was just one measure of success as he addressed the National Press Club on Thursday, the same day he became University of Canberra chancellor and the first Indigenous man to hold such a position in Australia.
University of Canberra report : Dr Tom Calma call for a fairer Australia
Prime Minister Tony Abbott last week proposed a new Close the Gap target to dramatically improve school attendance of Indigenous children within five years.
Calma said improving indigenous education outcomes needed a holistic approach.
“Attendance is only one measure of success,” Calma said.
“Getting people in the door is not going to mean you’re going to learn.”
He said the involvement of indigenous parents in children’s education through reading programs was critical to classroom success.
Other factors included bilingual lessons, fixing the high rate of otitis media or middle ear disease among children and addressing overcrowded houses.
“For every year of education you improve health outcomes, you can’t see any of these issues in isolation,” Calma said.
Earlier on Thursday, Abbott hailed the launch of National Australia Bank’s sixth Reconciliation Action Plan, which encourages Indigenous employment and inclusion.
“A bank should not be foreign country to Indigenous people,” he said.
“A fair go for Aboriginal people means a country where kids go to school, where adults go to work. … because these are the indicators of … happy people living in tranquil communities.”
Calma, a founder of the National Congress of Australia’s First People, expressed his disappointment the Abbott government had scrapped the previous Labor government’s funding commitment to the body.
Last year’s May budget allocated $15 million over three years to the Aboriginal representative body.
“[The money] was in the forward estimates … that’s been reneged on and that’s created a problem,” Calma said.
“A lot of success will happen when people feel included, and their voice is being heard.”
Dr Tom Calma a great supporter of NACCHO
INCOMING Canberra University chancellor Tom Calma has urged ordinary citizens to financially back scholarships for indigenous students, noting the country still has only one Aboriginal psychiatrist.
Speaking ahead of his inauguration, Dr Calma said only 1.1 per cent of university funding came from donations and bequests, mostly from ageing endowments rather than new philanthropy.
“You don’t have to donate a lot. Workplace giving programs are really important where just a couple of dollars over the course of a week out of the pay packet can go towards a cause,” Dr Calma told the National Press Club.
“They’re small, but they can be enough to help somebody buy books or get over any of the humps they might feel. You don’t have to be rich; you don’t have to go all in any one hit.
“We also see the issue of crowd-funding now starting to gather popularity, and I think universities will start to use that more for research or philanthropic endeavours.
“We can all do it. It’s just a matter of having that mindset to want to do something for somebody else.”
Crowd-funding is an online process whereby individuals pledge money towards a set funding target for a particular project, and are only obliged to donate if that target is reached.
Dr Calma is the second indigenous Australian to serve as a university chancellor. He follows Pat O’Shane, who led the University of New England for nine years until 2003.
But Dr Calma said Australia still lagged behind comparable countries in terms of indigenous academics, noting Canada and New Zealand had trained indigenous doctors in 1866 and 1899 respectively.
“But it was not until 1983 that Helen Milroy graduated from the University of Western Australia as Australia’s first Aboriginal medical doctor. Dr Milroy is also our first and only psychiatrist,” he said.
However, Dr Calma said, there were “encouraging” signs for Australia’s future, with 10,000 indigenous tertiary students currently enrolled.
“There are now around 180 indigenous doctors and 260 (indigenous) medical students in Australia. However, there are approximately 80,000 doctors registered in Australia, so to reach parity of 3 per cent in the medical profession, it would require over 2400 additional indigenous doctors immediately,” he said.