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Doctors Say We Need More Indigenous Doctors If We're Ever Going To Close The Gap

Closing the Gap with more Indigenous doctors.

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The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA), the peak body representing student doctors, has called on the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to invest in programs to increase the number of Indigenous doctors.

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“The focus on early schooling targets in the COAG national agreements is imperative," Elise Buisson, AMSA president, says.

"We need to ensure those Indigenous students attempting to make a successful transition to further study after school, particularly in medicine, are supported as best as possible. We must increase the number of Indigenous medical graduates, in order to develop the Indigenous health leaders that we so desperately need, and pave the path for sustainable Indigenous health reform.”

Buisson believes that encouraging more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to enter the medical profession could help alleviate the huge disparity in health between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians

“We have a serious issue with the retention and support of our Indigenous medical student colleagues that cannot be ignored any longer".

“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, along with all COAG leaders, must commit to fulfil their responsibilities and work with tertiary institutions to ensure there is population parity of Indigenous medical graduates. This must be a new COAG target if we are to Close the Gap," Buisson says

The calls come on Close the Gap Day, marking ten years since the campaign was started to help raise awareness of Indigenous disadvantage. A decade later and health outcomes have steadily gotten worse for Indigenous people.

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Last month Malcolm Turnbull delivered the annual Closing the Gap Report speech in parliament, reporting on the progress targets set by COAG in 2008.

The report showed that the mortality rate of Indigenous people still remains high and falls short of targets set to reduce deaths, in particular from circulatory diseases like heart attack and stroke.

“The health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is slowly improving but the current rate of progress will have to gather pace if the life expectancy target is to be met by 2031,” Turnbull says in the report.

“Meeting this target remains challenging because, among other things, non-Indigenous life expectancy is expected to rise over the coming years”.

Indigenous Australians can expect to die around 10 years younger than the rest of the population and targets to close the life expectancy gap by 2031 are completely off- track.

“The prime minister, along with all COAG leaders, must commit to fulfil their responsibilities and work with tertiary institutions to ensure there is population parity of Indigenous medical graduates," Buisson says.

"This must be a new COAG target if we are to close the gap," Buisson says.

Formerly with BuzzFeed News, Allan Clarke is a NITV reporter based in Sydney.

Contact Allan Clarke at arielle.benedek+AC@buzzfeed.com.

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