UNSW Medicine's record enrolment of Indigenous students has been further boosted with the announcement of five new Indigenous scholarships funded by the Balnaves Foundation.
The scholarships - one a year for the next five years - are valued at $750,000, and bring to nine the number of scholarships funded by the Foundation set up by businessman and philanthropist Mr Neil Balnaves and family.
The support is among the most generous in Australia, giving students $25,000 a year for the full six-year medical degree.
UNSW Medicine is a national leader in the training of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors. This year the faculty has welcomed 11 Indigenous students to first-year medicine, the highest number ever enrolled in a single intake.
In total, 27 Aboriginal students are now studying medicine at UNSW, compared to an average of around eight for other universities that offer a medical degree.
The success of UNSW's Indigenous medical students and alumni was celebrated recently at an Indigenous Australians Exhibition at the Australian Museum.
NSW Governor Professor Marie Bashir joined UNSW Chancellor David Gonski, Australia's first Indigenous surgeon, UNSW alumnus Dr Kelvin Kong, and around 100 staff, alumni and current and prospective students to celebrate the impressive record and achievements in Indigenous medicine.
"When the current group of UNSW Indigenous medical students has graduated, UNSW alone will have increased the number of Indigenous doctors in Australia by 20 per cent," UNSW Medicine Dean, Professor Peter Smith, told the gathering.
UNSW, through Nura Gili Indigenous Programs, offers campus-wide support to Aboriginal students, including academic resource centres. It also runs one of Australia's largest Winter Schools and uni preparatory courses.
"Financial support, such as the Balnaves Foundation Indigenous scholarships and the Shalom Gamarada residential scholarship program, is essential to ensure Indigenous students graduate as doctors," Professor Smith said.
Dr Kelvin Kong graduated from UNSW in 1999 and is now an ear, nose and throat surgeon at Newcastle's John Hunter Hospital.
"I think there's difficult moments for anyone going to university. For an Indigenous person there's certain aspects that make it more difficult in relation to finances, leaving the family, big family units, and the cost of living," he told the ABC.
"Having more Indigenous practitioners involved in the health arena will actually bring a new way of thinking to the table," Dr Kong said.
New Director for Nura Gili
Professor Martin Nakata has been appointed Director of Nura Gili Indigenous Programs, taking up the position in November.
Professor Nakata is currently the Director of Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology, Sydney. The first Torres Strait Islander to gain a PhD in Australia, Professor Nakata will also hold the title of Professor of Australian Indigenous Education.
For more information: Maria Backlund, UNSW Medicine
Media contact: Steve Offner, UNSW Media Office | 02 9385 8107