Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Doctors Celebrated in lutruwita / Tasmania

21 Nov 2023
Media Release

The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) has recently welcomed 400 people to nipaluna (Hobart) to celebrate its annual conference, bringing members and partners to lutruwita for the first time since 2010.

Conference highlights included keynote speeches from an Aboriginal owned and operated social enterprise The Kings Narrative and NAIDOC Person of the Year 2023, Professor Kelvin Kong, who is also Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon.

ABC journalist Dan Bourchier emceed the Gala Dinner where microbiologist Dr Benjamin Armstrong was lauded with the AIDA Indigenous Doctor of Year Award. Dr Armstrong is Tasmanian Aboriginal – a Melukerdee and Pinterrairer, Lia Pootah man – and a Fellow of The Royal College of Pathologists of Australasia (RCPA).

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Armstrong was a member of the Commonwealth’s multi- disciplinary working group to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the Indigenous community.

He became one of the first Indigenous students to graduate with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, paving the way for others to follow behind him. Dr Armstrong now also proudly holds the title of Australia’s first known-clinical Microbiologist of Aboriginal descent.

Dr Armstrong is also a member of the RCPA’s Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Māori Health & Workforce Steering Committee, which he represents annually at the AIDA conference.

Additionally, Ms Shay-Lee Coulson was named Indigenous Medical Student of the Year, having represented Indigenous students on platforms such as the NSW Medical Students Council and the Student Consultative Committee.

Ms Coulson proudly contributes to education, community engagement, leadership, advocacy, and policy development in Indigenous health through her policy work for the Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA).

As part of the celebrations, 22 Indigenous medical graduates were also awarded hand-painted stethoscopes in a ceremony steeped in tradition, while 19 Fellows were awarded with framed stethoscopes to acknowledge their achievement in becoming a fellow with their chosen College.

AIDA CEO, Ms Donna Burns noted the importance of celebrating the outstanding achievements of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors in the organisation’s annual highlight event.

“It is vital that we celebrate and recognise the achievements of our Torres and Strait Islander doctors and continue to create a culturally safe environment where they can look around a room and know that we stand united” Ms Burns said.

“This year’s conference theme was ‘Our Sovereign Place in Health’, proving to be an essential reminder that we have tens of thousands of years of culture that supports healthy, thriving outcomes for individuals and communities.”

There are currently 845 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors registered in Australia according to Ahpra, which is equivalent to 0.6% of all doctors nationally. AIDA is proud to contribute to the growing number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors by working towards a culturally safe healthcare system to ensure better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, while growing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce.


21 Nov 2023