When Greg and Kay Poche presented UWA with a $10,000,000 cheque to establish the WA-based Poche Centre for Indigenous Health in 2013, they would have been impressed by young UWA medical student Vinka Barunga.
Vinka had attended the ceremony to represent medical students from the School of Indigenous Studies and the Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health. At the time, she had completed the third year of her medical degree.
Vinka is now in Derby on a 12-month placement where she divides her time between the local hospital and the Derby Aboriginal Health Service. It is also where her inspiring story was filmed by SBS. This week the half-hour documentary, Living Black: Kimberley Healing, aired on SBS and NITV.
The Poche Centre and Vinka Barunga are closely aligned. Both are committed to improving Indigenous health.
Vinka, a twenty-eight-year-old Worora woman, grew up in Mowanjum in the Kimberley, ten kilometres from Derby. It was there she saw serious health issues among Aboriginal people and where she dreamed of one day becoming a doctor.
Diabetes, heart disease and hypertension are common health problems among today’s Aboriginal community, resulting from forced removal from the 1950s and subsequent poverty and overcrowding.
On her ward rounds at the Derby hospital, Vinka works predominantly with local Aboriginal patients, many of whom are friends and family and proud of their home-grown medical student. She sees first-hand the need for remote staff retention and hopes to become Derby’s first full-time Aboriginal doctor.
‘Definitely the continuation of health professionals coming on and building bonds within the community and building trust within the community is doing wonders for Aboriginal health,’ she told SBS.
In the documentary Vinka also shared her determination to make a difference in her community and to empower the next generation to also become doctors. ‘Having more Aboriginal people as doctors, it does more than helping their health. It empowers them,’ she said.
The full story on Vinka Barunga can be seen on SBS’s Living Black: Kimberley Healing.
Ms Sabrina Swift (UWA School of Indigenous Studies) (+61 8) 6488 7422/ 1800 819 292