Cultural Immersion Experience

Learn more about healthcare in an Indigenous community setting.

PLEASE NOTE: delivery of this event has been postponed in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. The GPSN team will deliver educational experiences and opportunities in Indigenous health throughout the year to ensure GPSN members have the opportunity to learn more in this important area.

The Cultural Immersion Experience Camp is an opportunity for medical students interested in general practice to gain experience in Indigenous healthcare and culture firsthand.

Each year, the camp selects GPSN applicants to travel to a remote Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory. Here, they experience Indigenous culture, and Indigenous and remote healthcare.

Applicants must submit an application to the camp, outlining their special interest in Indigenous healthcare and health issues. Applicants are selected on the basis of their interest and commitment to these areas.

This trip is thanks to Northern Territory General Practice Education (NTGPE). Scholarships are available for students unable to afford flight costs.

The Cultural Immersion Experience Camp is supported and endorsed by the GPSN National Working Group.

If you're interested in the next trip, please contact wgo@gpsn.org.au

NTGPE cultural immersion camp reflection 2019

By Laura Roden. Laura is the 2020 GPSN National Chair. This article was provided by NTGPE.

I HAD the privilege of attending the 2019 Cultural Immersion Camp with Northern Territory General Practice Education (NTGPE).

A group of us were taken into Kakadu National Park with Mandy, a traditional owner of the land where we stayed, and NTGPE support staff, including cultural educators.

My favourite part of the camp was going on several walks to places with stunning rock art.
While the art was beautiful, it was the stories Mandy told while we walked which made this experience so special.

We learnt about the Dreaming stories shown in the art and the landscape. We were taught about the plants and animals we came across.

Through this, Mandy’s deep connection to the land was clear to see. It was a privilege to have her share with us so freely.

We tried kangaroo tail and magpie goose, weaving, and damper cooking.

These activities were a lot of fun and were made all the richer by doing them alongside Mandy, Richard, Gemina and Lizzie. They told us stories of their lives, ancestors and what the activities meant to them.

It was through these stories and the relationships we built over the camp that I gained the most insight into Aboriginal cultures.

Medical school tends to teach all the things which are going wrong in terms of Aboriginal health—statistics about higher rates of disease or lower life expectancy.

The NTGPE Cultural Immersion Camp gave me a completely different insight into Aboriginal health issues, emphasising the strength Aboriginal people draw from culture, spirituality and connection to Country.

This encouraged me to think about the consequences of these things being attacked for decades by outside prejudice and ignorance, as well as how I can be aware of, and look after, these aspects of health in my future practice.

For example, being taught about the kinship system and how it differs from traditional Western family models has improved my understanding of why it might be especially difficult for Aboriginal people to be separated from their family, or why they may present to clinics with second or third-degree relatives.

Many thanks to NTGPE for this opportunity, and to the camp’s cultural educators for teaching me so much. This experience will stay with me and shape my future care.


My experience on the 2018 Cultural Immersion Experience Camp

By Helena Rann, 2019 GPSN National Working Group Officer and 2018 Secretary of GPSN Monash Univeristy.

The Cultural Immersion Experience Camp is an annual opportunity for medical students interested in general practice to experience in Indigenous healthcare and Indigenous culture first-hand.

Applicants are selected for their demonstrated interest and engagement in Indigenous health, remote medicine and general practice.

The 2018 camp selected six GPSN applicants to travel to a remote Aboriginal community in the Northern Territory, Kakadu.

This camp was thanks to the support of Northern Territory General Practice Education (NTGPE). Scholarships were available for students unable to afford flight costs.

“It was an honour to see sacred sites and such awe-inspiring parts of our country with the traditional owners,” said attendee Helena.

“Everyone has a role to play and choices to make that can help play a role in closing the gap of healthcare inequalities,” she said.

The traditional owners of the land warmly welcomed the attendees, which included GPSN members, NTGPE GP registrars and cultural educators to Kakadu National Park.

The days were hot, active, jam-packed and provided invaluable knowledge to inform the future medical career of each attendee.

The team camped, cooked and fished by the river at Billabong Safari Camp. Day trips were taken around Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land.

Attendees visited remote health centres and saw first-hand the environment where remote and rural medicine is practised and delivered to the local community.

Attendees visited places of significance to the local Aboriginal communities. Here, attendees ate bush tucker, dyed and wove their own jewellery and played the yadaki (didgeridoo).

Stories were shared between attendees and the local guides, giving a unique perspective into Australian Indigenous culture and history.

“On behalf of GPSN, thank you to Mandy and her family for welcoming us and sharing your land and stories, NTGPE for their ongoing financial and practical support, GPRA for travel assistance and everyone else involved in this incredible experience,” said GPSN National Working Group Officer Keshini Visvanathan.

“We look forward to the next Cultural Immersion Camp and strongly encourage all GPSN members to apply,” she said.

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