Review: A Doctor’s Dream

Book cover of A Doctor's Dream

A Doctor’s Dream: A story of hope from the Top End by Dr Buddhi Lokuge and Tanya Burke, (Allen & Unwin, 2014).

A Doctor’s Dream is about a microscopic mite, a huge health issue and the fraught nature of ongoing injustices towards Aboriginal people in Australia. It is a very Australian story. Both white and Aboriginal people are tired of the same intractable problems and tired of announcements of quick fixes that never work. In this book Dr Buddhi Lokuge and Tanya Burke offer a way through this mire, but only through hard, time-consuming commitment and respect.

Scabies is a mite that is a scourge in some outback Aboriginal communities. It causes itching which leads to skin infections in the tropical environment of northern Australia. Some people do not have any natural resistance to the mite which leads to huge colonies living on their skin causing the disfiguring and serious health condition known as crusted scabies.

The chronic skin infections caused by recurrent outbreaks of scabies can lead to abscesses and in some cases, amputations. It is the underlying cause that has led to remote Aboriginal communities in Australia having some of the highest rates of kidney and rheumatic heart disease in the world. The constant sores on a child can give the appearance that the child is suffering from neglect at home. Lokuge and Burke explain that this health condition can be horribly misunderstood by the authorities and lead to the removal of the child from their family. Despite what we have learned from the Stolen Generations, removal of children from Aboriginal families is still occurring.

Dr Lokuge drew on his experience working for international medical humanitarian organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières to design and deliver a program to eliminate scabies in Arnhem Land. The not for profit organisation Lokuge worked for, One Disease, offered him the freedom and support to devise and implement a solution that enabled Aboriginal people to tackle the issue. Their overall management and support of Lokuge’s work is a crucial element in the success of the program. Continue reading

Violence and the Intimate Frontier

In my continuing series of posts about the Australian Historical Association today I write up some notes I made at two plenary panels. These notes are not a comprehensive overview of the panels; rather they are a handful of the thoughts presented which particularly resonated with me. 

Conflict in history is the theme of the Australian Historical Association conference which was held in Brisbane last week. Held just weeks away from the centenary of World War I, the immediate assumption is that this conference would be about the history of wars in other places such as the world wars. However, a plenary panel and other papers presented throughout the conference demonstrate that historians are continuing to research conflicts on Australian soil.

Book cover, Out of the Silence

Out of the Silence: The history and memory of South Australia’s frontier wars, by Robert Foster and Amanda Nettelbeck (Wakefield Press, 2012)

Australia has a history of conflict on this continent which goes well beyond the bombing of Darwin during World War II. As Australian historians over the last twenty to thirty years have found, the settlement of Australia by Europeans was not peaceful. Violence and conflict can also be expressed in many forms.

Military aspects of frontier violence have taken away from inter-cultural violence on the Australian frontiers observed Professor Amanda Nettelbeck of the University of Adelaide. When we think of conflict between two peoples we think of armed conflict between two groups of strangers who do not know each other. Yet conflict between two peoples can be waged between people who know each other, who perhaps grow up with each other and even live under the same roof. Nettelbeck reminded us that when thinking of conflict between Aborigines and settlers we should also consider the intimate and everyday aspects of the violence. Continue reading

Te Papa: the national museum of New Zealand

New Zealand's national museum, Te Papa.

The Museum of New Zealand/Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington.

‘Overwhelming’, is the word that sums up my experience of New Zealand’s national museum, Te Papa.  It is all that it promises to be but I could not possibly comprehend everything that was exhibited in one visit.  This museum reminded me that New Zealand is quite a different country to Australia both culturally and physically.

The indigenous people make a significant contribution to the unique persona of any nation. The exhibitions about the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori, opened a new vista to me. I became absorbed, slowly moving through each exhibit learning new words, different ways of living, histories unfamiliar to me. Continue reading