The Malpa Project

Mr Don Palmer, CEO of The Malpa Project presented at the 2015 Rural and Remote Mental Health Symposium and today shares an update on his presentation titled ‘Child Doctors: an ancient paradigm for the 21st century’.

Australian Indigenous people have the highest rate of otitis media in the world- 58%

The World Health Organisation says anything over 4% is a “health emergency”.

83% of Indigenous men in NSW jails are functionally deaf.

“If all Australians had the same health experience as Indigenous Australians we would rank 140 in the world, alongside Bangladesh, on the Human Development Index,“ observed John Menadue, AO.

Tired of this relentless bad news we asked Warlpiri Elders what to do. The answer was simple; the results astonishing.

The Aboriginal way to holistic health was for the traditional healers (called Ngangkari in Central Australia) to select young people with the right attitude and aptitude to become “Young Doctors”. Children as young as four start the journey to being healers for their people. It is a lifelong commitment. Aboriginal people in Central Australia said that this approach should be used so that Aboriginal children in the twenty first century can have healthy and long lives.

Our Young Doctors – Indigenous and non-Indigenous ten year old children - are trained by a combination of local Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders working with Elders, traditional healers, doctors - from the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association - nurses and community health workers to become health leaders. They gain a knowledge of hygiene, nutrition, environmental health, health literacy and well-being. “my favriout part is Lerning about everything” said one Boori (Young) Doctor.

The Young Doctors engage with other children and their community encouraging them to take on good health habits. They learn the Old Ways, and the New Ways of medicine. “This has been the most exciting time of my life” said a Bubup (Bubup) Doctor.

The Projects usually run within primary school communities for fifteen weeks with fifteen young people. At the insistence of Elders the groups comprise Indigenous and non-Indigenous Young Doctors.

We hope that many discover a passion for medicine and begin on a pathway towards that. Young Doctor projects deliver 70% of the ACARA nationally mandated H&PE Curriculum. School attendance surges – sometimes as high as 99%. Our approach is flexible, adaptable and scalable. Elders, parents – everyone – are welcome at the project sessions. Many children starting at Kindergarten level at several of the schools where we have started programs could not actually speak – until they come to our Young Doctors programs.

One Traditional Knowledge Keeper commented “I have never been so excited in a long time”

An experienced medic said “This might just cause an outbreak of good health!”

There are currently 600 + Young Doctors and there will be over 1,000 in NSW, Victoria, ACT, South Australia and the Northern Territory by the end of 2017 trained by The Malpa Project.

“We have been waiting for this,” said Elder Rex Granites Japanangka.

Don Palmer
0417 297 010

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