Better anti-racism training needed for medical practitioners

In support of NAIDOC week and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, we are highlighting a recent research article that shows a need to Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! for change in the training of health professionals.

Monash researchers have found medical practitioners are promoting ill health through racist practices with Aboriginal health consumers.

Monash academic Petah Atkinson published the findings from her PhD research Aboriginal Health Consumers Experiences of an Aboriginal Health Curriculum Framework in The Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin Journal with co-authors Professor Karen Adams and Professor Marilyn Baird.

The study utilised Yarning methods which are integral to Aboriginal peoples’ ways of understanding and learning. Aboriginal adults from urban and rural areas participated in the Yarns during 2018 and 2019. Coding and mapping data identified medical practitioners enacting practices that either perpetuated racism and the settler colonial ideology or facilitated anti-racist health care.

The study found unwanted care included three racism themes:

  1. The practitioner perpetuating and being unresponsive to racism
  2. Assimilation
  3. An inability to consider the impacts of settler colonialism.

Desired care included four anti-racist themes:

  1. Responsiveness to racism and settler colonialism
  2. Advocating within the settler colonial health system
  3. Engaging with the diversity of Aboriginal ways of knowing, being and doing
  4. Lifelong learning and reflection.

In settler colonised countries, medical education is situated in colonist informed health systems. This form of colonisation is characterised by overt racism and contributes to the significant health inequities experienced by Indigenous peoples. Curriculum in these countries includes content relating to Indigenous peoples but doesn’t recognise Aboriginal knowledge as valuable nor consider the Indigenous health consumer’s nuanced lived experience of the delivery of medical care.

Ms Atkinson’s findings emphasise a need for decolonisation of health professions’ curriculum and better anti-racism training for medical practitioners, including systemic approaches to support anti-racism practices. Until this happens, the inclusion of the voices of Aboriginal health consumers in shaping the health professions’ curriculum will be a token gesture.

We all must continue to Get Up! Stand Up! Show Up! for systemic change and keep rallying around our mob, our Elders, our communities.

Read the full article here.

Find out more about NAIDOC week here.


About Monash University

Monash University is Australia’s largest university with more than 80,000 students. In the 60 years since its foundation, it has developed a reputation for world-leading high-impact research, quality teaching, and inspiring innovation.

With four campuses in Australia and a presence in Malaysia, China, India, Indonesia and Italy, it is one of the most internationalised Australian universities.

As a leading international medical research university with the largest medical faculty in Australia and integration with leading Australian teaching hospitals, we consistently rank in the top 50 universities worldwide for clinical, pre-clinical and health sciences.

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