Leaders in disguise — the unexpected tomorrows of global health

Kylie Ngu
Med J Aust 2014; 200 (1): . || doi: 10.5694/mja13.10581
Published online: 20 January 2014

I’m so glad that you’re here”, are words that you don’t expect to hear as a medical student. You mean me? When a newly arrived, keen, Mandarin-speaking immigrant, excited to start a new life, finds work in the remote town of Tennant Creek (a town with a population of about 3000 in the Northern Territory of Australia and with a four-bed emergency department serving the whole of the Barkly Region — an area that covers 240 000 square kilometres), access to health care is unlikely to be the first thing on her mind. She doesn’t speak English and she is worried about bowel cancer. She sees I am Chinese-looking but she has no idea that I was born here in Australia and how lacking in confidence I am in speaking Mandarin. This was not what I expected. I came to Tennant Creek to work in Aboriginal health in a remote setting. I had read the harrowing statistics of physical abuse, sexual abuse and alcohol misuse in Aboriginal communities. I had heard the saddening anecdotal stories. I had seen the ongoing news headlines splashed across the media. However, I had no idea how I would feel once I actually arrived and witnessed the poverty in the Aboriginal communities and the lack of health services for the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people of Tennant Creek. I had not expected to find a gently spoken albeit anxious Mandarin-speaking woman here. Her story imprinted in my mind how we are all fighting the same health problems, regardless of what our roots are, and how frighteningly difficult it can be in remote communities like Tennant Creek.

  • Kylie Ngu

  • St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, VIC.


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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