Indigenous physicians concerned

A COFFS Harbour doctor uniquely placed to tackle Aboriginal health issues claims national statistics on indigenous health are reflected in our region.

Dr Marilyn Clarke, who is Australia's only indigenous gynaecologist, said statistics concerning the gap in health care between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians are plainly evident on the Coffs Coast.

“Obstetrics statistics are reflected locally, since here in Coffs Harbour we have high pre-term births, complicated pregnancies and low birth weights,” Dr Clarke said.

“However, local work such as the Aboriginal Midwifery program at Galambila have resulted in improvements over time, particularly in breast feeding rates, and while you tend to hear more about the doom and gloom, improvements are being made.”

Dr Clarke is at the forefront of the fight to bridge the gap in health care for indigenous people, being a member of the board of directors of the Australian Indigenous Doctors' Association.

It's a role she relishes, but it does bring pressures along with it.

“There are only 125 indigenous doctors and 120 indigenous medical students across the country,” Dr Clarke said.

“Although a heavy burden is placed on all of us, there is an expectation to tackle the huge health issues facing our people.”

The Australian Indigenous Doctors' Association celebrates its 10th birthday this year, and AIDA president Dr Tamara Mackean said the group had come a long way since the first meeting of doctors in Salamander Bay in 1998.

“Within a relatively short period of time, we've managed to not only grow and learn, but take on the running of a formal collegiate and advisory body,” Mr Mackean said.

“AIDA today is no longer a handful of individual doctors and students - it has become a collective body, with credibility and leadership in Indigenous health.”

Earlier this month AIDA gathered for its annual symposium in Darwin, the theme of which was Our Culture, Our Kids, Our Future.

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