Graduation rate of Indigenous medical students grows in Monash medical program

Indigenous medical students at Monash University are completing their studies at more than double the national rate, marking an important contribution to growing the Indigenous medical workforce.

89% of Monash’s commencing Indigenous medical students completed their degrees, compared to the 2019 national average of 40%

Since 2015, an estimated 89% of Monash’s commencing Indigenous medical students completed their degrees, compared to the 2019 national average of 40% based on data from the Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand.

These graduates are changing the face of Victoria’s hospitals and health services, as some of the first Indigenous medical interns at Monash Health, Peninsula Health, Mildura Base Hospital, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, Austin Health, Western Health and Barwon Health.

Three Indigenous Monash medical graduates, with Professor Michelle Leech, Peggy Swindle and Professor Karen Adams

Key initiatives attributed to this success is the work of the Gukwonderuk Indigenous Health Unit, within the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences.

Gukwonderuk, led by the Associate Dean (Indigenous), Professor Karen Adams, provides dedicated engagement for all Indigenous health students. Through Gukwonderuk’s Growing Indigenous Graduates program, this starts before students even commence their university studies - from high school outreach activities like Hands On Health, guidance through the University’s admissions process, and access to accommodation scholarships. Specialised engagement continues from day one of a Monash health degree, and with a focus on engaging Indigenous students from all health courses, the cohort is strongly connected.

“Gukwonderuk staff provide a Kirrip program where first-year Indigenous students are paired with a student in a higher year level, to gain practical guidance. Vertical peer sessions are held throughout the year to practice clinical and exam skills and an annual Indigenous Student Symposium provides the opportunity to meet alumni and peers across the Faculty”, explains Professor Adams, Gukwonderuk’s Director.

Deputy Dean of Medicine, Professor Michelle Leech, agrees that having a dedicated Indigenous Health unit embedded within the Monash Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences - the largest health faculty in Australia - has been integral to achieving the high completion rate of Monash’s Indigenous medical students.

“The care, vigilance and timely support the Gukwonderuk team provides is critical. The cultural and academic support, highly specific to the course of study, is key. Our engaged academics who work with the Gukwonderuk team are also very important, with a well-established network of supporters within the Faculty. Our students are immensely capable and we now have strong vertical support networks with very impressive alumni; that inspiration is very powerful.”

Building these networks also increases cultural safety within healthcare systems.

“This is important as healthcare is known to have cultural safety challenges with Indigenous health professionals experiencing racism regularly. When there are more Aboriginal health professionals in communities and family, networks for health advice widen,” said Professor Adams.

While the high completion rate is a significant achievement, there is still more to be done. The number of students Gukwonderuk supports has more than doubled in recent years, though their program still operates on the same resources. Increased financial support required to ensure the program’s sustainability and grow the next generation of Indigenous health professionals.

“Indigenous doctors and health practitioners bring a very special capability, as well as skills, knowledge and expertise, their intrinsic understanding of the importance of culture not only improves the care of Indigenous people, but is hugely beneficial to the whole health system improving connected care for everyone”, adds Professor Leech.

Support Gukwonderuk

If you would like to help support the Gukwonderuk’s Growing Indigenous Graduates program, please contact Megan O’Connor, Deputy Director of Development.

T: +61 3 9903 1485
M: +61 437 236 878