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Racism continues on campuses

By | Monday, November 28th, 2011
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Despite unambiguous university policies to the contrary, indigenous academic and professional staff continue to experience direct discrimination and racist attitudes. In fact, more than 70 per cent do.

That’s the main finding from a recent survey by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU). The results, released last week, show that for those indigenous people who experienced the discrimination, less than 20 per cent said their university employer had positively addressed it. “Our report is timely given the federal government’s review of higher education access and outcomes for indigenous people,” said the chair of the NTEU’s indigenous policy committee, Jillian Miller.

“Less than 1 per cent of university staff is indigenous, well down from the population parity figure of 2.5 per cent. Policies aimed at increasing indigenous participation, no matter how well intentioned, will not work unless steps are also taken to tackle racial discrimination.” The survey also found about 60 per cent of indigenous staff had experienced “lateral violence” in the workplace — that is, harmful and undermining actions by other indigenous employees, thought to occur because of marginalisation.

“Racial discrimination, including incidents of lateral violence between indigenous staff, is of great concern because it undermines the ability of indigenous academic and professional staff to do their job and has an impact on the ability of institutions to retain qualified indigenous staff,” Miller said. The survey was conducted between March and August. The resulting 36-page report, I’m not a racist, but …, states the majority of non-indigenous university staff and students are not racist and do not hold prejudices towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

A corresponding survey also delved into the anti-racism, anti-discrimination and equal opportunity policies and procedures in the nation’s 38 public universities. All were found to have adopted such policies, with many implementing stand alone policies, and about 70 per cent of universities had also employed equal opportunity employment officers. The NTEU said a national research project on lateral violence, possibly involving Universities Australia and the Australian Research Council, would be among its next steps to counter racism and discrimination within universities.The full report can be downloaded from the NTEU’s website.

In related news, Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand has renewed its commitment to improving indigenous health by signing an agreement with the Te Ohu Rata O Aotearoa Maori Medical Practitioners Association of Aotearoa.

Building on a 2005 agreement with the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association, the agreement was signed at an international education conference in Auckland last week. Professor Justin Beilby, president of Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand, told CR the deals represented long-term commitments by Australia’s 18 university medical schools and two New Zealand schools.

“This is about the future, the partnership building as we go forward, in a sense of building momentum around indigenous training and indigenous involvement in our medical schools,” said Beilby, who is executive dean of health sciences at the University of Adelaide.

The most significant advancement in Australia had been the introduction of a national indigenous health curriculum into all medical training, he said. And the peak body was increasingly focused on developing new pathways to attract more indigenous students into that training.“We’re just getting to the cusp of indigenous students who are graduating and moving into new career pathways and specialist pathways,” Beilby said.

Susan Woodward
Campus Review
28 November 2011

Landmark Indigenous agreement signed

By | Sunday, November 27th, 2011
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Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand today signed a landmark agreement with Te Ohu Rata O Aotearoa (Te ORA) Māori Medical Practitioners Association of Aotearoa as part of its ongoing commitment to improve Indigenous health, and specifically Māori health equality in Aotearoa.

‘This agreement is a joint commitment to work together to realise the potential of Māori medical students and to strengthen the capacity of non-Indigenous medical graduates to practice with cultural competence and confidence in Māori health settings,’ said Professor Justin Beilby, the President of Medical Deans.

‘It also gives us the capacity to jointly influence broader structural reform and policy and program agendas in both national health and education.’

Professor Beilby said the agreement built on a similar agreement with the Australian Indigenous Doctors association, initially struck in 2005 and renewed in 2008. Medical Deans is made up of the Deans of Australia’s 18 university medical schools and the two New Zealand schools.

The agreement was signed at the opening of an international conference in Auckland, the Leaders in Indigenous Medical Education (LIME) Connection IV. The Conference brings together leading medical educators from Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Hawaii and Vietnam.

‘This collaboration formalises the Deans’ commitment to Indigenous health and acknowledges the value and significance of Indigenous knowledge,’ Professor Beilby said ‘It is based on mutual respect and a commitment to joint decision making, constant learning and reflection.’

‘This MOU signals the beginning of an important relationship and work program between Māori doctors and the Medical Deans,’ said Dr Sue Crengle, the Chair of Te ORA.  ‘Te ORA looks forward to working with Medical Deans to support the future growth and development of the Māori medical workforce.’

The LIME Network conference, known as LIME Connection, is held every two years in either Australia or Aotearoa/New Zealand.

More information:

Lack of internships may send Australian trained doctors elsewhere

By | Wednesday, November 9th, 2011
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Professor Lesleyanne Hawthorne talks to the ABC on the looming intern crisis.

Medical Students take expertise offshore

By | Monday, November 7th, 2011
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Valuable foreign medical students are being deterred from Australian study by anxiety about the graduate internship bottleneck, says global migration researcher, Professor Lesleyanne Hawthorne.

Professor Hawthorne is associate dean international at the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences and says prospective international students are considering the internship – required to complete their qualification in Australia — as fundamental to their choice of where to study

“There’s enormous anxiety about it,” says Professor Hawthorne. “I work across key source regions in North America and Asia and every student asks about internships. It’s absolutely on their radar.”

She says agents in Singapore and Canada in particular have warned of a looming drop in Australian medical school applications as students cast around for more certain global destinations, with many looking to New Zealand as an alternative and some even to the not-so-certain UK system.”

Current numbers suggest that by 2014 there may be just 2014 internship places for a student population of 3786. At this stage, state governments guarantee domestic students an internship placement, but international students have no such certainty and suggestions such as merit-based internship allocation, being put forward by Dean of Medicine at the University of Melbourne James Angus, show little sign of being quick adoption.

President of the Medical Deans of Australia and New Zealand, Professor Justin Beilby from the University of Adelaide says the situation is becoming a financial issue for Australian medical schools and is a potential threat to the whole of campus foreign student market.

“If you turn off the international medical students, what does it do for the attractiveness of the whole tertiary sector for international students? I think that’s high risk.”

Professor Hawthorne’s comments were made after presenting new research about the movement of international medical students at the inaugural research forum for the medical students outcomes database (MSOD) and longitudinal tracking project. Her work on the database, which began tracking the demography, choices and careers of medical students through university and beyond in 2005, shows that by graduation more three quarters of international medical students want to remain in Australia and of those able to complete their internship here, 98 per cent remain.

It’s something the medical deans insist shows that if internships could be provided, the international students would provide a much needed addition to our stretched medical workforce. Those international students most likely to stay are the Americans and the highly skilled and rapidly growing Canadian cohort — now comprising approximately one fifth of all commencing med students at the University of Queensland alone. For those that can’t get internships, New Zealand and Singapore are only too happy to accept them into their programs and Hawthorne says they are already scouting Australian campuses on a regular basis.

Professor Beilby says that careful planning for 2012 – together with the innovative use of alternative placements beyond hospitals in aged care and general practice – means that they are confident there will be sufficient places to accommodate international students – even in the incredibly tight NSW market. But substantial longer term modelling is needed to provide the long-term certainty required for students who are contemplating investing as much as $200,000-plus in an Australian medical degree.

NSW Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner addressed the MSOD research forum and flagged that the issue of funding international gradate internship places would also need proper consideration as part of any long-term plans.

Annabel McGilvray
Campus Review
7 November, 2011

Doctors in demand by poachers

By | Thursday, November 3rd, 2011
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SINGAPORE and New Zealand are lining up to poach thousands of Australian-trained foreign-born doctors because governments and medical authorities can’t guarantee them intern places at the end of their university training, a Sydney conference will hear today.

University of Melbourne health workforce expert Lesleyanne Hawthorne said graduates who couldn’t get internships were likely to be enticed to Singapore, where the future supply of doctors was jeopardised by a very low birth rate.

Professor Hawthorne said the Singaporean government sent several recruitment delegations to Australia each year. “They do the rounds of all the key universities.”

“They will provide the clinical training places and they’re very willing to provide citizenship. They would snap them up without question.”

Professor Hawthorne said New Zealand was also a likely destination. It “registers 1100 overseas-trained doctors a year, yet more than half have gone by the end of the first year”.

Many were “backpacker doctors” on working holidays, she said. The shortage of clinical places was more severe in Australia than in Singapore or New Zealand.

But an explosion in domestic medical training is threatening the availability of clinical training places foreign students who need to obtain residency. Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand said placements looked “reasonably good” for next year, but it had concerns beyond that.

President Justin Beilby said medical authorities had established new placements in areas such as general practitioners’ clinics and community health services. “But long term we’re unclear how international students will figure in the workforce.

“If they’re trained in Australia they should at least be able to do their intern placements (here).
“These are very well-trained students and a significant number of them want to stay.” Australia relies heavily on overseas-trained doctors, who are about a third of the medical workforce and more than 40 per cent in some areas, according to the Australian Medical Association.

Professor Hawthorne said Australia imported 3000-5000 of them each year, but qualification and language constraints meant 53 per cent could not work in the Australian health sector for at least five years.
Locally trained international students, who typically took four to six years to graduate, were generally preferable, she said.

They “had to meet English language standards. Their qualifications are fully recognised. Their average age is 24, and they’ve self-funded to meet exactly the local training requirements.”

Professor Hawthorne’s research, based on a six-year study of overseas medical students’ career aspirations, will be presented today at a research forum at the University of Technology Sydney.

She said the four main source countries were Malaysia and Singapore followed by Canada and the US. North American students were the most likely to want to remain in Australia.

Artilce by John Ross
The Australian, 4 November 2011

First studies on medical student data

By | Thursday, November 3rd, 2011
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The first studies using data collected on almost 12,700 Australian medical students will be presented at a one-day conference in Sydney on Friday.

The studies include an analysis of what happens to foreign students who graduate as doctors in Australia, including how many choose to stay on in Australia and practise medicine.

Seven projects will feature at the Inaugural Research Forum for the Medical Schools Outcomes Database and Longitudinal Tracking (MSOD) project, with the research based on the material in the database.

The MSOD project is the world’s first nationally coordinated project that tracks medical students through university and then follows their medical careers. The project began in 2005 and involves all 18 Australian medical schools.

It is funded by the Federal Government and hosted by Medical Deans — which represents 18 medical schools in Australia and two in New Zealand — in collaboration with eight other stakeholders. Health Workforce Australia has funded the project since July, and is now using MSOD data to inform the National Training Plan.

‘The MSOD project was first funded seven years ago and has now amassed a significant amount of information that can be tapped into by researchers,’ said the Chair of the MSOD Board, Professor Nicholas Glasgow.

The project collects demographic, educational and career intention data from new medical students, during their course and on exit. Graduating doctors are followed up after one, three and five years.

Professor Glasgow said the project was a rich source of data for researchers and those shaping health workforce policy. ‘The database is of national significance because it will give us an understanding of what influences doctors’ career choices and will help with future workforce planning.’

NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner will attend the conference at the Aerial UTS Function Centre in Ultimo.

Details of the research topics can be found at

More information: Mary Solomon, (02) 9114 1680

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