Sparkie Turned Aspiring Surgeon Is Among Record 8 Indigenous Medicine Graduates At UNSW

17/01/2016 5:36 PM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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University of NSW

A former sparkie is one of a record eight indigenous students to graduate from the University of NSW's medicine degree this week.

Byron Bay local and Torres Strait Islander Justin Keevers told The Huffington Post Australia the sparkie life was missing something and he enrolled in medicine through the university's Indigenous Entry Scheme.

"I was 23 and I felt like I'd done all I could do, and then I had a minor back injury. It made me think - how am I going to be making money when I'm 60?" Keevers told HuffPost Australia.

"I guess I'm proof to any Indigenous kids, or older people, that it's never too late to decide what you want to do."

He said he wanted to become the first Indigenous doctor to specialise in obesity-related surgery to address a statistical over-representation of obesity and diabetes in Indigenous populations, but that he hadn't entirely given up on his sparkie roots.

"I want to head to the Pacific or the sticks one a year to see how I can help out at hospitals with my medicine, but I've also kept my electrician's licence, so I want to help with that too," Keevers said.

justin keevers universty nsw indigenous

Also graduating is Mudgee resident Madison Reynolds who told HuffPost Australia moving to Sydney to study was a world apart from what she knew.

"There isn't a single traffic light in Mudgee so when I first arrived in Sydney, I was shocked," Reynolds said.

"The university was like something out of the movies."

She said she was starting a two-year hospital placement on Monday but one day hoped to be able to offer health services to regional areas.

madison reynolds university nsw indigenous

"In Mudgee, the GPs are all booked out for a month and there's no specialists," Reynolds said.

"You get the occasional specialist visit once a month and they book out like crazy. Even scans, people have to travel for scans.

"Long term, I'd like to be able to work in Mudgee."

She said her indigenous heritage, through her father, was an important part of her life and she wanted to show other indigenous people what was possible.

"I knew studying medicine was going to be hard, I think indigenous people always think they don’t know whether they'll be able to do that type of thing but at UNSW there is so much help with the indigenous centre and indigenous scholarships. They make it easier."

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