Fly-in-out trip to Oak Valley | Refugee and Aboriginal Health Experience


With a passion for Refugee and Aboriginal Health, 6th year Adelaide University Medical Student, Vy Tran joined Dr Md Moniruzzaman, Medical Director, Kakarrara Wilurarra Health Alliance (KWHA) for a fly-in-out trip to Oak Valley, a remote Aboriginal community earlier in October.

Read about Vy’s experience below.

Joining the Kakarrara Wilurarra Health Alliance (KWHA) on a fly-in-out trip to Oak Valley was an enriching and immersive experience, having never been to a remote Aboriginal community before. In talking to community members in and outside the clinic, as well as in my readings prior to flying, I learned of the Maralinga people’s history and the consequences of the nuclear testing that occurred on their land in the 1950s.

I was able to develop a deeper understanding of the social determinants of health and the health problems known to be more prevalent among Aboriginal peoples, seeing babies with recurrent skin infections due to crowded living conditions and issues with hygiene, having to screen every child’s ears and heart given the significant prevalence of acute rheumatic fever and otitis media, and trying to work together with adults presenting with poorly controlled diabetes to negotiate their medications and diet.

I was able to appreciate the complexities of health management, from difficulties such as going out bush or travelling between communities such as Yalata and Ceduna, where they may not be in the community to receive their weekly diabetes injection, to the vast distances required to travel to access specialised care. In wandering around the community, I was able to visit the general store, and appreciate the limitations of living so remote in terms of the availability and affordability of fresh food, one of the many issues to maintaining a healthy diet.

In terms of learning about the local culture, I spoke with community members to learn more about their way of life, including rangers and their role in looking after their land, and a man who talked me through the process of cooking kangaroo tail in a fire pit in the ground. A woman told me a story of how a Ngangkari healer helped with her chronic back pain by removing a stone from her back that was responsible for her pain, a testament to the importance of holistic healthcare. It was a small window into their culture and beliefs, and I am grateful to have had this incredible opportunity to learn from both the community and the KWHA team.

Yours sincerely,

Vy Tran

If you are a medical student in South Australia with a passion for refugee and Aboriginal Health, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Aboriginal Health team and discuss your exposure opportunities today.

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