In late 2004, the director of the Muru Marri Indigenous Health Unit at the University of NSW, Prof Lisa Jackson Pulver, made a request to the then president of The Shalom Institute, Ilona Lee, that Shalom College provide a residential scholarship for an Indigenous student who was offered a place in Medicine at UNSW but could not afford to live on or near the campus.
The Shalom Gamarada Indigenous Scholarship program began with this one student in 2005 and grew rapidly to provide 25 scholarships in 2013.
The name of the program comes from the term gamarada ngiyani yana in the Eora language and is translated literally as friends-walk-we or "We walk together as friends." The word Shalom is a Hebrew word, meaning ‘peace’ and it is also used to greet people and to bid them farewell. It is part of the name of the Shalom College at the University of NSW.
The initial 2005 scholarship was funded by the proceeds of an art exhibition, curated by Waterhole Art. The exhibition was opened by Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir AC CVO, Governor of NSW, who said:
"Most of you are aware that national health statistics continue to demonstrate vast and unacceptable differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. Life expectancy for Indigenous males is 56 years compared with 77 years for other Australians, and for Indigenous females 63 years and 83 years respectively. Levels of cardiovascular and renal disorders, as well as high rates of diabetes and premature death from all these problems continue to cast a long shadow across all Aboriginal communities. Distressing variances also occur with infant deaths in the first year of life (four times greater for Indigenous infants), and I am ashamed to tell you that suicide rates are nearly three times that of non-Indigenous people. In particular, this is a tragic loss of young men whom their families, their communities, and this nation can ill afford to lose."
"It is only right to remind ourselves that a mere 217 years ago when the first fleet, led by Governor Arthur Phillip, arrived in this pristine land, the Australian Aboriginal people were considered to be the healthiest people in the world… It is no accident that this initiative was so speedily taken up by the Sydney Jewish community, the elders of whom are well aware of the impact of great loss and grief, and also of the healing quality of renewed spirit and culture. This program is a strong and eloquent contribution to our journey of reconciliation." 25th July, 2005.
The original aim of the program was to increase the number of Aboriginal health professionals who would work in Indigenous communities and, thereby, help improve their communities' health outcomes. This was to be achieved both by assisting Indigenous students to overcome their difficulties associated with enrolling in tertiary studies and also reducing the high drop-out rate of these students from university. At the time, many Indigenous students were finding it difficult to succeed at university because they:
The Shalom Gamarada program addresses these problems by providing residential accommodation and full board, thus alleviating financial constraints and time wasted on commuting. It also places the students in a learning community with tutoring and counselling support .
In 2011 the program was able to expand to take in students from other faculties due to a partnership with the Australian Indigenous Education Foundation who match each scholarship The Shalom Institute is able to provide.
To date we have had three graduates, two medical doctors and one optometrist (click here for graduates).
Please click on the following links to view two short videos about the program
Newsletter: Click here for latest volume
Please click here to view the selection criteria for the scholarship program.
The Shalom Gamarada Scholarship Program received high-level recognition at the LIME Awards held in late 2011 in Auckland, New Zealand, winning the Award for "Leading innovation in Indigenous Student Recruitment, Support and Graduation".
The LIME Network is a Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand Project and is supported by the Australian Government. The award was accepted by co-founder of the program, Professor Lisa Jackson Pulver AM, Chair, Indigenous Health and Professor, Public Health (UNSW), at the conference dinner on Monday 30th November, 2011. Its aim is to be a dynamic network dedicated to ensuring the quality and effectiveness of teaching and learning of Indigenous health in medical education, as well as best practice in the recruitment and retention of Indigenous medical students.