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Episode 18

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health

Show notes

Welcome to Generally Speaking, the conversation for all GPs.

Join GPs Dr Gill Singleton and Dr Billy Stoupas as they discuss some of the most pressing topics and issues surrounding the operations of a general practice.

This time, Dr Stoupas and Dr Singleton commemorate NAIDOC week and discuss ‘closing the gap’ in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in Australia. They are joined by Professor Peter O’Mara who is a proud Wiradjuri man, Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and a strong advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth, and improved health in general.

04 November 2020 - 01:05 PM | 25 min 1 sec

(00:21) Dr Singleton and Dr Stoupas set the scene for their discussion highlighting NAIDOC week.

Introduction of Professor Peter O’Mara

(001:40) Professor O’Mara begins with an Acknowledgement of Country, then tells the story of him becoming a doctor.

(06:09) Professor O’Mara responds to Dr Stoupas questions regarding best practice when it comes to raising potentially awkward topics with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients. He suggests that the best way to do it is from a respectful viewpoint. Even if it’s the wrong question, but asked in a respectful way, he thinks people will respond without issue.

(08:06) Professor O’Mara continues to offer suggestions on how best to be respectful of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture when asking patients questions. Particularly regarding where someone is from, if their families are still around or where they might have been born.

(10:53) Dr Singleton asks Professor O’Mara about the topic of being a truly multicultural society and how far we are along that journey.

(11:16) Professor O’Mara feels that he’s probably never known a time where there are so many non-Indigenous Australian people walking alongside and in support of equity, which makes him feel positive. Of course there is a distance to go – but we are going in the right direction.

(12:07) Professor O’Mara talks about his role as a mentor and how many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors are coming through the ranks. He feels that mentoring is very important because many of his mob often have imposter syndrome and don’t really feel like they belong in medical school, or a specialty college.

(13:54) Professor O’Mara discusses the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association (AIDA) and his pride in being involved.

(16:25) Professor O’Mara responds to Dr Singleton’s questions about the 2020 Closing the Gap report and how his views on the best way to remedy the inequity have changed over the years.

(18:04) Professor O’Mara explains his views on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth and the work he is involved in, which looks to prevent incarceration of this population. He shares an anecdote which describes the way his culture used to teach its youth the laws of society, specifically those surrounding respect for women. It is instilled in the young men by women with a unique approach to education.

(20:35) Professor O’Mara wraps up with the point that when our education system can create doctors who are good at dealing with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, they by default, will be intrinsically and equally skilled at dealing with the population in general. He goes on to tell a story, that illustrates this point from his experience, which moves Dr Singleton to tears.

(23:48) Dr Stoupas and Dr Singleton wrap up and outline some of the resources that are available on the subject of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

  • The call for governments to commit to achieving equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in health and life expectancy within a generation is captured in the 2020 Closing the Gap report
  • The RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health website includes a video of Chair Professor Peter O’Mara discussing the faculty and its impact in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.
  • The RACGP’s Close the Gap webpage is available.

‘I think if we were to do three things to help improve the health of Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people in this country, the first thing would be to stop racism, the second thing would be to stop racism. And the third thing, of course, stop racism. And that’s really how we can make a huge difference.’

‘I think that our structure is second to none. I’m not saying it’s the best – we always want to keep refining and make things better – I’m just so proud that we’re in that space. And our faculty has [just] had its 10-year anniversary, which is really significant, and also reflective of the long-term commitment that RACGP has to Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander health.’

– Professor Peter O’Mara

  • If you would like to learn more about Professor Peter O’Mara and his story, check out his RACGP profile.
  • If you would like to learn more about Dr Gill Singleton’s achievements and insights, or would like to connect, please visit her LinkedIn
  • If you would like to learn more about Dr Billy Stoupas’ achievements and insights, or would like to connect, please visit Billy's website
Resources referred to in the Generally Speaking podcast and on the website are views of the hosts and not necessarily endorsed by RACGP.

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