Dr Maree Toombs, the Director of Indigenous Health, School of Medicine, University of Queensland, presented a public lecture and book launch hosted by the ANU Medical School on 16 September. Staff and students from across the ANU and the wider community gathered in the Finkel lecture theatre. The lecture, Hidden histories - increasing our understanding of the past and present together, included an interactive session which explored the rich cultural heritage of Australia and the impact on health and educational outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Dr Toombs invited members of the audience to join her in role play as a way of engagingly telling some of the pre and post-colonisation history. The most memorable part of the presentation was when Dr Toombs showed a photograph of many members of her extended family taken at the wedding of her parents. Dr Toombs related each family member's medical history powerfully and poignantly bringing home to the audience the sad state of health for so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The lecture was immediately followed by the launch of Indigenous Australians and Health: the Wombat in the room edited by Dr Toombs along with Mr Ron Hampton. This book is recommended reading for ANU medical students and seeks to raise awareness of the culturally appropriate way of working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in urban and remote areas. The book meets its aim of providing an understanding of health from the Indigenous perspective while also examining the historical connections of health and the impacts of colonisation. It has been shortlisted for an educational publishing award in the category of Tertiary (wholly Australian): Student Resource.
The lecture and book launch were followed by book signing, refreshments and networking.
Article by Dr Phyll Dance, Senior Lecturer ANU Medical School
Photograph: Dr Maree Toombs and Professor Amanda Barnard