Scholarship priorities Indigenous health

Inaugural recipient of the Peter Sharp Scholarship Danielle Dries. Danielle Dries
4 May 2017

When Peter Sharp AO passed away in 2011, he left a large hole in the ACT community. For more than 22 years Peter had served as the medical Director of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal health Service. His work emphasised the holistic approach to healthcare that is a hallmark of the Winnunga Nimmityjah Service.

In 2004, as part of National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee week, Peter was awarded the first non-Aboriginal person's award for his commitment to Aboriginal health. In 2009 he was awarded the prestigious Australian medical Association Excellence in health Care Award and in 2010 became a member of the Order of Australia.

With the support of ACT health, the Peter Sharp Scholarship at ANU was established to honour and celebrate Peter's contributions to Indigenous health and the community. The Scholarship provides support to students who want to make a difference to Indigenous healthcare in Australia.

Inaugural Scholarship winner and first-year medical student, Danielle Dries, said that Indigenous health was an issue that hits close to home.

"Both my grandparents had a lot of health problems growing up," she said.

"I took some Indigenous health subjects in my first degree and got a little bit upset and a little bit angry the more I learned.

"So many Indigenous health problems are preventable. I was never attracted to surgery because I'd rather prevent problems before they occur."

Support from ACT health will also assist students studying in the Indigenous health Stream at the ANU medical School and support recruitment initiatives for Indigenous applicants wishing to study medicine.

ANU Tjabal Indigenous higher Education Centre Director Anne Martin said the Scholarship gives students the opportunity to really focus on their studies.

"It's such a demanding program they're undertaking. Financial support is incredibly important. To be given such a scholarship makes a huge difference for students," she said.

"Peter made the most amazing contribution to the region.

"He paid it forward to the community for such a long time. It's really important to keep his legacy alive through this scholarship."

The Peter Sharp Endowment was established later in 2013 to ensure the Scholarship continues in perpetuity. Donations have come from the ACT government, The John James foundation, Peter's widow, family and friends and workplace giving donations from ANU staff and Australian Public Service staff members.