A new report by the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association surveying medical professionals has revealed widespread racism in the medical industry and a lack of support for reporting incidents.
More than 60 per cent of those surveyed said they had experienced racism and or bullying on a regular basis. At least 10 per cent said they had allowed others to believe they were not Indigenous in order to avoid racism, harassment and bullying.
The report revealed that many workplaces had allowed racism and bullying to become an entrenched part of workplace culture. Respondents also described avoidance, exclusion and racist commentary. This included being disbelieved or accused of playing up their Indigenous heritage or "playing the race card" to obtain career advancement and financial benefit.
In the most serious cases respondents reported systematic campaigns of racism against them that resulted in their resignation.
AIDA CEO, Craig Dukes said the report showed that state and federal governments need to take racism and bullying seriously in the medical industry and called for the adoption of mandatory cultural safety training for all health staff on a regular basis.
"A culturally safe healthcare system, free from racism and bullying attracts and nurtures Indigenous doctors and this must be a priority if the government is serious about closing the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians,” he said.
Of the ninety per cent of respondents who openly identified as Indigenous in their workplace, 75 per cent indicated their pride in their identity and culture as the main reason for doing so. Mr Dukes said Indigenous medical staff made a vital contribution to the health system.
“It is undeniable that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals play a critical role in improving health outcomes for Indigenous Australians. Indigenous doctors have unique ability to align clinical and cultural knowledge to provide culturally appropriate care."
The report also identified a lack of trust from respondents in existing reporting procedures for incidents of racism and bullying.
"This supports the need for systemic reform, not just a focus on individual cases. Such reform is a long process that requires cultural safety, independence, and confidentiality," the report concluded.
The survey was based on 53 responses from medical professionals and students.