Welcoming the 2021 University of Sydney medical students to Bundjalung Country

Welcoming the 2021 University of Sydney medical students to Bundjalung Country

In the third week of January we welcomed the 2021 cohort of Year 3 Medical Students to Bundjalung Country as they commence their year-long placement in Lismore.

This year, many of our students had been in the Northern Rivers for less than two days, and it was a great opportunity to bring the education team and students together to meet and to begin this year-long journey.

We began with a Welcome to Country by Aunty Nancy Walke and a smoking ceremony, before building our own unique yarning circle from local plants. We added past student weavings of jullum or fish, to bring the water into our space to create a flow, and a calmness that stayed with us for the two days.

After some introductions from all staff and students, we moved on to the immersion. Over the two days, the students heard from Emma, Susan, and Tracey about history and past government policy, stolen generations and genocide. Students were asked to challenge their own thoughts and to think about how they may best work with an Aboriginal and or Torres Strait Islander patient.

In the afternoon we were joined by Dr Jane Burgess, Dr Clare Sudgen and Aboriginal Health worker George Johnson who shared their experiences, their stories and answered many a question.  Students then learned about and wrote their own Acknowledgement to Country. We look forward to hearing them this year!

On day two, Susan met the students at Broken Head, and Delta Kay, a local Arakwal woman and Elder took them on a walk through the heads, talked about Country and showed them the  amazing things that can be done as a result of Native Title claims, and that resilience and positivity can come from this. Delta shared traditional stories, ‘cautionary tales’ (thanks Mariska for those words!), and talked about bush tucka. Students learned a dance and how to count to five in Bundjalung.  Our immersion ended with a visit from Terry McGrath and Caston Smith from Namatjira Haven, our local Aboriginal drug and alcohol healing centre. We had hoped to visit the Haven, however, COVID spikes made this impossible. Terry and Caston shared with us 20 + years of combined experience working with Aboriginal men and substance use, talked about the history of ‘the war on drugs’, and challenged us all. They answered many questions and were so sharing with their experience, their approaches and knowledge.

A note to say that our immersions rely on the generosity of people like Drs Jane, Clare and Caston, George and Terry – we are really privileged to have passionate caregivers and healers willing to share so freely– a huge thank you to them.  Positive feedback was received from the students both verbally and written – we thank you for that.

From what I have seen over the last few days, this year is going to be fantastic with the USYD crew – thanks to them for their input, their curiosity and for being ‘present’ for the whole immersion.


Have a great 2021 on Bundjalung Country.

Aboriginal Health Team