Cris Carriage

Introduction Audio

Cris CarriageI am the Indigenous Project Officer in the Dean's Unit at the UWS School of Medicine, I hold a Bachelor of Community Management, a Masters of Indigenous Health Studies and a Diploma in Community Management.

Since commencing at UWS I have helped to establish a unique educational opportunity for many of our medical students through the development of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health community placements.

This experience has been the missing link from medical education in Australia. It fosters the development of cultural capability in medical practitioners before they emerge into hospital or general practice, standing students who then go on to specialise in good stead too. Cultural capability development as a performance measure within their degree enables medical students on placement to see beyond the widely publicised poor health statistics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations. This has enabled students to get amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, to consider their real life issues, to see this first-hand in the context of the social and material conditions of people's lives and to see what actually works in terms of a health response. This ultimately supplements the Western view of health, engendering within students the holistic view sought by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities from their medical practitioners for Health for 3 year term 2003-2006.

Full Audio Story

The documented history of the Yuin side goes right back to colonization.

Schooling for me was just traumatic on the best of days. Not only because of change but my father wasn't a good father, he wasn't a very nice man. I had an English teacher who just picked on me for no other reason. You can see why some kids would not go to school. I just went because if I stayed at home it was worse.

When I left high school at 16 I could barely put pen to paper. I couldn't really write and spell. I couldn't string a sentence together, everything just went to memory. It just annoys me that no-one took the time to notice I'd never actually learnt the basics of English. So I went to TAFE to learn how to type because I knew that typing was a physical job, and you just had to copy the writing on the page. I could do 80 words a minute.

When you look at Aboriginal communities, the prime issues always come down to health. If you've got no housing you've got poor health. If you've got no education you've got poor health.

When you have more education you have more options to choose the way you want to live or where you want to live. I think there are a lot of myths around treating Aboriginal people in hospitals, and there are a lot of people who are old school, who just treat everyone the same, regardless of who they are. I've worked over those years to break down those barriers.

There are so few Aboriginal doctors, at the moment there's only about 120 in Australia, and that's not enough. My prime role is to look at ways we can encourage Aboriginal students to be doctors and to influence students around Aboriginal culture and heritage, politics and health issues. We owe the Aboriginal peoples better lives, to be relieved of the suffering and mental anguish that goes on. Chronic unhappiness leads to all sorts of problems.

I believe that change is not going to come from non-Aboriginal people It's going to come from Aboriginal people. Someone has to lead this, someone has to stand up. All the things achieved in the Sixties got us on the national agenda, it made us stand up and be accountable for ourselves in some parts of our lives. People have to redeem themselves individually.

It was reinforced to me by my daughter when someone called her an Abo at school and she said: 'Well thank you for noticing.' and walked away. If we break down the ignorance we can understand each other and learn from each other.