NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alert : Bright future for Arrernte Doctor


Growing up seeing lots of health issues that indigenous people face, but also growing up in community where you’re pretty much one big family that rely on each other, that’s important.

And when you have an indigenous patient, you feel the connection immediately — when you have that conversation about where they’re from, and you often find you know people in common. Often many of the barriers to healthcare come down, those cultural things about not revealing ­aspects of their situation to non-indigenous people.”

25-year-old Arrernte Doctor Dr Artiene Tatian speaking to the Australian

When Artiene Tatian’s parents upped sticks from Alice Springs to Sydney to improve their children’s educational prospects, a train was set in motion that even now is gathering speed.

The Arrernte 25-year-old had a brilliant scholastic career, studied medicine and is now an intern at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, but he still hasn’t gone anywhere near as far as he plans.

Dr Tatian hopes a new $20,000 annual scholarship for indigenous doctors studying to be surgeons could help him be part of a push to swell those tiny ranks: Australia has only two indigenous surgeons in a national cohort of about 4800.

“We’re now producing a growing number of indigenous doctors but then that leap of converting that to them being specialists, and not just GP specialists, is the next important thing,” he said.

One of those two — ear, nose and throat specialist Kelvin Kong — has been a champion of the scholarship plan, which will be ­announced today.

A joint project between the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons and Johnson & Johnson Medical, the scholarship plan will be available to two indigenous Australians and one Maori a year.

“There are some meetings you go to when the room is full of indigenous doctors, and it’s amazing,” Professor Kong told The Australian. “So in five or 10 years’ time, to have that same experience with a room full of specialists, that will just be something else.

11. Kelvin

Australia has only two indigenous surgeons -One of those two — ear, nose and throat specialist Professor Kelvin Kong — has been a champion of the scholarship plan,

“In that time we could quadruple our specialist services; we’ll have a whole new cohort of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander professionals engaged in this space — and that’s going to make a huge difference to Australia.”

For both Dr Tatian and Professor Kong, growing up fighting adversity was a key to getting where they are now. Professor Kong, from the Hunter region north of Sydney, followed his older twin sisters into medicine; they ­became the first indigenous women to graduate as Bachelors of Medicine from the University of Sydney.

And Dr Tatian, whose older brother is a dentist and sister is a physical education teacher, was encouraged by his Armenian ­garbage-truck-driving dad and Arrernte doctor’s receptionist mum to dream big — but also to stay grounded.

The Dr Ross Ingram Memorial Prize

Dr Ross Ingram was the first Indigenous person from NSW to be accepted into the University of Newcastle’s Medical School and the first Wiradjuri person to become a doctor.

The competition is open to any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person who is working, researching or training in a health-related field. Entries should use an example or a story, to present original and positive ideas aimed at promoting health gains and health equity for Australia’s Indigenous peoples.

They need not be written in formal academic style with extensive referencing, but supporting references can be used where appropriate. Essays should be no more than 2000 words long.

The winner will receive a $4,000 cash prize and the winning essay will be published in the MJA.

Please see our website for further details, and to be inspired by previous entries

and submit entries via our online submissions system

Questions? Email:

Closing date Friday 31 May 2016

Judging process: A panel, including external experts and MJA Editorial staff, will judge finalist entries, and judges will be blinded to the identities of the authors.

Before entering the competition, please take a moment to read about Dr Ross Ingram.


See interviews with Aboriginal doctors Dr Mark Wenitong and Dr Ngiare Brown (Pictured above at Ice Form with Minister Nash ) on NACCHO TV series ” Aboriginal Health in Aboriginal Hands “


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