The AMA recognises the critical importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors in contributing to better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Established in 1994, the AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship contributes to growing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors by supporting First Nations people who are studying a medical degree at an Australian university.
The scholarship targets Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students who demonstrate a commitment to their community and to medicine, and who may not have the financial means to realise their dream.
The value of the scholarship is currently $11,000 per annum, which is awarded for the full course of a medical degree, subject to the conditions of award.
2024 Applications NOW CLOSED, applications for 2025 open 1 November 2024.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are currently studying medicine can apply.
Applicants must be enrolled full-time in a medical degree at an Australian university and have successfully completed at least their first year of medicine.
For the purposes of this scholarship, an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person is someone who:
- is of Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent;
- who identifies as an Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person; and
- is accepted as such by the community in which he or she lives or has lived.
Applicants must provide an official letter from an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community organisation to support their claim.
Scholarship value and duration
The value of the scholarship is $11,000 per annum, which is paid in a lump sum. The scholarship will be awarded for a full course of study, subject to review at the end of each year.
It is the responsibility of applicants to seek advice from Centrelink on how the scholarship payment may affect ABSTUDY or any other government payment.
The AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship Trust Fund was initially established in 1994 with a contribution from the Australian Government. In 2016, the Trust Fund became The AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship Foundation (the foundation) which was registered as a charitable organisation through the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission. The foundation also has Deductible Gift Recipient tax status, which means that donations can be claimed as a tax deduction.
The AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship aims to increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors in Australia by supporting Indigenous students to complete a medical degree.
One scholarship is currently awarded each year.
The value of the scholarship is $11,000 per annum (provided in one lump sum each year). It is the responsibility of applicants to seek advice from Centrelink on how the scholarship payment may affect ABSTUDY or any other government payments.
The scholarship is awarded for the full course of study of a medical degree, subject to satisfactory academic progress and continued full-time enrolment.
The scholarship is tenable for each year of medicine that the recipient successfully completes.
The scholarship will be awarded on the recommendation of a selection panel drawn from the AMA-AIDA Taskforce on Indigenous Health. Selection of the scholarship recipient will be based on:
- a 500-word statement answering the following topics:
- The statement provided by the applicant clearly articulates their aspirations and purpose for studying.
- The statement provided by the applicant thoughtfully describes the use(s) to which they hope to put their medical training.
- The statement provided by the applicant adequately explains the way in which the scholarship finances would be used by the applicant to aide their study.
- The statement provided by the applicant explicitly articulates how the applicant's previous experiences will inform and enrich their future practice of medicine.
- The applicant demonstrates a strong commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and health.
- reports from referees familiar to the applicant, giving strong evidence of the applicants' contributions, community connection, and future potential.
Each year, payment of the scholarship will occur following the AMA’s receipt of the recipient’s:
- official results for the academic year; and
- formal proof of full-time enrolment in a medical degree for the subsequent academic year.
The documents listed above must be official university documents such as an academic transcript or a letter of endorsement from the relevant university.
Recipients must notify the AMA, in writing, of any intention to defer study.
The AMA may consider granting a deferral of study for a maximum of 12 months, whilst allowing the recipient to retain the scholarship. This is subject to approval by the AMA. Scholarship payments are not applicable to periods of deferred study and will be suspended for the duration of the deferral period.
Scholarship payments will resume on the date that study is recommenced.
The scholarship terminates:
- on successful completion of a medical degree; or
- if a recipient withdraws from a medical degree.
The scholarship may also be withheld or terminated if a scholarship holder’s performance in any semester is unsatisfactory. The final decision to withhold or terminate a scholarship is at the discretion of the AMA.
The scholarship may be suspended, terminated or withheld if any false or misleading information is provided on the application, or relevant information is omitted from the application.
The scholarship may be suspended, terminated or withheld in the case of gross misconduct by the scholarship holder, which may include, but is not limited to, academic misconduct or any conduct which brings the scholarship or the AMA into disrepute.
Recipients may be contacted by the AMA to participate in publicity of the Scholarship from time to time. This may include, but is not limited to, an interview, a photograph and a formal scholarship presentation ceremony. The AMA may also request written responses from recipients which can include a basic profile, descriptions of university experiences and information about the scholarship has supported recipients in undertaking their studies.
Q. Can I apply if I have not started my first year of my medical degree?
A. No, you cannot apply unless you are currently enrolled in your first year of medicine.
Q. Can I apply if I am in my first year of my medical degree?
A. Yes, but you must provide evidence of successful completion of your first year of study as well as proof of full-time enrolment in your second year in order to be eligible for the scholarship.
Q. Can I apply if I am studying a health-related degree, such as physiotherapy or dentistry?
A. No, you can only apply for the scholarship if you are studying a degree in medicine.
Q. Can I apply if I hold another substantial scholarship?
A. Yes, you can still apply for this scholarship.
Q. What happens if I don’t submit a letter from an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community organisation supporting my application?
A. You must submit a letter from an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander community organisation, to which you are well known, supporting your application as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person. Applications that do not contain all the required documentation will not be considered.
Q. What happens if I don’t submit all the documentation required for the scholarship?
A. Applications that do not contain all the required documentation will not be considered.
Q. Can I submit supporting documentation, such as letters of support or relevant merit certificates, in addition to the required documentation?
A. Yes, you can submit further documentation if it is relevant to your application.
Q. How long does the scholarship last?
A. The scholarship is tenable for each year of medicine that the recipient successfully completes.
Q. What happens if I submit a late application?
A. As applications are open for three months (from 1 November to 31 January), late applications will not be considered.
Q. When do applications open?
A. Applications open 1 November each year and close at the end of January the following year.
Q. How will this scholarship affect my government payments?
A. It is the responsibility of the applicant to seek advice from Centrelink on how the scholarship payment may affect ABSTUDY or any other government payment.
Q. What if I still have a question about the scholarship?
A. Please contact the AMA on (02) 6270 5400 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
The AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to study medicine and achieve their dream of becoming doctors.
You can now donate towards the scholarship, and support an Indigenous medical student throughout their medical studies.
More ways to give
You can also leave a bequest to the AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship Foundation.
Past scholarship winners have gone on to become prominent leaders in health and medicine after completing their medical degrees, including Associate Professor Kelvin Kong, Australia’s first Aboriginal surgeon, and Professor Alex Brown, a medical doctor and leading researcher. These inspiring individuals are leading the way in their respective fields.
Read more about previous scholarship recipients below.
The 2016 AMA Indigenous Peoples’ Medical Scholarship was awarded to Darren Hartnett at the AMA National Conference in Canberra on 27 May.
AMA President, Professor Brian Owler, presented Mr Hartnett with the Scholarship valued at $10,000 for each year of study.
“To truly make progress in closing the gap, we must support Indigenous health professionals like Darren”, Professor Owler said.
A stint in Burma with the Operation Open Heart Team inspired Mr Hartnett to follow his dream of serving his own Indigenous community.
After graduating as a Registered Nurse in the 1990s, Mr Hartnett discovered a deep sense of achievement in giving care to people in crisis.
“Working in mainly critical care settings, I have seen patients and families at their lowest points, which I’ve experienced myself, both as a patient and a family member. I understand how hard it is to be in those situations,” Mr Hartnett said.
“In 2010, I was fortunate enough to travel to Burma as part of the Operation Open Heart Team organised through Sydney Adventist Hospital. Seeing first-hand how I could make an impact on someone’s life, in a less fortunate situation to mine, was a very powerful experience. It was then that I started thinking of home and how I could serve my own Indigenous family.”
Now in his third year of a Bachelor of Medicine degree at the University of Newcastle, Mr Hartnett believes he is close to realising his dream.
“Knowing that within the next few years I can be out in the community assisting our own Indigenous population makes me proud of the fact that I am a Kamilaroi man,” Mr Hartnett said.
Mr Hartnett, who aspires to work in Anaesthetics and Intensive Care, is also part of the Miroma Bunbilla Pre Medicine entry program, tutoring the next generation of potential Indigenous doctors to help them gain entry into the Medicine program.
The scholarship was established in 1995 with a contribution from the Commonwealth Government. The AMA is looking for further sponsorships to continue this very important commitment to Indigenous health.
Decades spent caring for remote Indigenous communities on the wrong side of the nation’s infamous health gap has left 2014 AMA Indigenous Peoples’ Medical Scholarship winner, Wayne Ah-Sam, determined to bring health inequality to an end.
For almost 20 years, Mr Ah-Sam, a proud Kalkadoon/Gungangdji man, did what he could as an Aboriginal health worker to improve health and relieve suffering in far-flung communities across Australia’s Top End.
But, two years ago, Mr Ah-Sam realised a new approach was needed.
“I had seen a lot of health issues and inequality which have greatly impacted on our people’s health,” the father of four said.
“I felt that, as a health worker, I was only scratching the surface of a deep-rooted problem.
“I felt that I could do more to help my people’s plight, which forced me to make a decision – stay as a health worker, or maybe study medicine.”
Now in his second year of a Bachelor of Medicine degree at the University of Newcastle,
Mr Ah-Sam believes that, as a doctor, he will be able to achieve much more to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.
“I want to be a voice for my people as I sit at the table with the policymakers to maybe influence or effect changes that have positive outcomes,” he said.
“There are a lot of negative stereotypes and myths about Aboriginal people and their health.
“Our health can be different and better, just by the changing attitudes, views and beliefs of the broader Australian community and the powers that be.”
Outgoing AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, today awarded Mr Ah-Sam the AMA Indigenous Peoples’ Medical Scholarship, valued at $9000 for each year of study.
Dr Hambleton said the scholarship was designed to encourage and support Indigenous students who are preparing for careers in medicine, particularly those intending to work in Indigenous communities.
“The AMA understands and supports the unique contribution Indigenous health professionals and Aboriginal-controlled health services can make to close the gap and improve the health of Indigenous people,” Dr Hambleton said.
Mr Ah-Sam said he intended to “return home” once he finished his degree.
“I see myself returning to country and going to where I am needed the most – somewhere in an Indigenous remote community back home,” he said.
The scholarship was established in 1995 with a contribution from the Commonwealth Government.
AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship recipient Murray Haar is one of six Indigenous students graduating from University of New South Wales (UNSW) Medicine this year – one of the biggest cohorts of graduating students in an Australian medicine program to date.
For Murray, graduation means that the Indigenous medical workforce is slowly but surely growing – and that’s a great step forward for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“For Indigenous patients and their families, especially where the patient is really sick, having a doctor who understands an Aboriginal perspective, understands culture and some of the circumstances of Aboriginal people, is really important,” Murray said.
“That connection really helps people in their treatment and ultimately improves their health outcomes.”
Growing up in Punchbowl in Sydney’s south west, Murray had always wanted to study medicine. Receiving the AMA’s Indigenous Peoples’ Medical Scholarship from third year onwards made it possible for him to survive financially as a medical student and to focus 100 per cent on his studies.
“You need real dedication to study medicine,” he said. “Class contact is five days a week, and there’s heaps of study and preparation after hours.
“The AMA’s Scholarship has supported me for the last three years and enabled me to give it everything I’ve got, especially over this last year.”
Murray said support had come from the UNSW’s Indigenous Unit, Nura Gili, which helps Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students through a student network, academic support and tutorial assistance.
UNSW’s Rural Clinical School has also been a great help with dedicated staff who assist students with some of the problems they face managing an intensive study program.
Exams and placements are all behind Murray now as he heads off to Albury Base Hospital to start his internship and residency.
“Ultimately, I want to do a mixture of anaesthetics and psychiatry to enable me to work in pain medicine. To specialise, I’ll have to go to Sydney, Melbourne or Hobart.
“For the time being though, I am looking forward to living and working in Albury, which is the county of my father’s people, the Wiradjuri nation.”
To other Indigenous people thinking of studying medicine, Murray is emphatic.
“Definitely don’t listen to anyone who discourages you,” he said. “There is plenty of support for you, from the university, from scholarships and from other Indigenous doctors.
“There is improvement in the state of Indigenous health, but the gap is still wide. It’s really important that we play our part in closing it.”
Another AMA Indigenous Medical Scholarship recipient has graduated from medicine, and it’s hard to tell who is more proud – Gemma Johnston or her family.
“I feel a huge sense of achievement,” Gemma said, “but Mum is enormously proud. A conversation can’t take place without her mentioning it!”
Gemma has just completed her sixth year at University of Western Australia (UWA), reading the oath and dedication on 22 November 2014.
Born in Darwin, Gemma belongs to the Jawyon tribe of the Northern Territory and has always wanted to be a doctor.
“I had eye surgery several times as a child to treat a squint, and I was very impressed with the doctors who treated me.
“I wasn’t that studious through high school, so I opted instead for Science at UWA.
“But with Mum’s breast cancer after my first year at uni, I knew I wanted to study medicine.
“During her illness and treatment, there was so little support for us as an Indigenous family. An Aboriginal Health Worker or something would have made me and Mum feel more comfortable but we had no one to explain things to us in a way we would understand. And with no one else at home to ask questions for Mum, it was a very challenging time.”
So with Mum on the mend, Gemma spent her summer of 2008 doing the Pre-Med course for Indigenous students offered by UWA. The course aims to introduce prospective students to the subjects, lectures, workload and lifestyle of medical study.
A bonus, Gemma said, is the network of other Indigenous people you join.
“That first cohort turns out to be a real asset for support for the next six years,” she said.
Despite the support, Gemma found first year extremely difficult.
“There were some external factors and a few family members passed away but ultimately I just didn’t give it my all. I got to exams and realised that I just hadn’t done the work I need to do,” Gemma said.
“I was so disappointed in myself but I decided to give it another go, this time with 100% commitment. Everyone talks about not being smart enough and yes, there’s an intellectual requirement. But it’s mostly about hard work.
“Don’t think you can’t do it – if you do the work, everything will fall into place.”
And it did. Gemma sought out all the advice she could from UWA’s Centre for Aboriginal and Medical Dental Health (CAMDH) which works to encourage more Aboriginal people to study medicine and dentistry – and help them while they’re there.
“They set me up with tutors and support, and weekly meetings with my mentor, who is an Aboriginal doctor. I was able to say where I was struggling with things, and I’d receive the guidance I needed to get me through,” Gemma said.
“It was also CAMDH which introduced me to the AMA’s Indigenous Medical Scholarship and I became the first UWA Med student to receive the scholarship.
“That scholarship has been immensely important to me. It took the burden off wondering where I was going to get the money for rent, textbooks, or a new stethoscope after I broke mine.”
Gemma is now looking forward to undertaking her internship at Perth’s Fiona Stanley Hospital. Beyond that, there are too many options for Gemma to contemplate right at the moment.
“I’ve got too many ideas about specialisation,” she said. “Rural general practice? Obstetrics? I can’t decide.
“But regardless of what training program I go into, it’s so important to have Indigenous doctors in the workforce.
“You are an advocate – even if you don’t want to be. I am looking forward to getting the ball rolling on areas we know are deficits in our health system, such as amending treatment plans that respond to the family and cultural obligations of Indigenous people.”
“I think it’s fantastic that the AMA has a scholarship for Indigenous doctors. I hope it continues long into the future.”
From Sunshine Coast to Alice Springs – AMA Scholarship winner spreads her wings
High achiever Amy Rosser makes most things look easy but even she says the AMA’s Indigenous Peoples' Medical Scholarship made the world of difference to her when studying medicine.
“It was an enormous support,” Amy said.
“It’s very hard to study medicine and work the long hours you need to make ends meet. The AMA’s Scholarship took away the stress of things so that I could really commit myself to studying and doing well.”
The first in her family to study medicine, Amy, a Kabi Kabi/Gubbi Gubbi woman from south east Queensland, had thought she would be a doctor since she was young.
“I got good grades at school so I thought I had better do something decent with them! Medicine appealed to my science-minded disposition.”
With a degree in medical science from Queensland University of Technology behind her, Amy said that medicine took a bit of getting used to.
“In some ways, being a post-graduate degree made it easier in that I was used to studying and managing my time,” she said.
“But medicine is very different in that you go from learning in lectures and tutorials to having to source all the information you need yourself.”
With hard work and the AMA’s financial support, Amy graduated from Medicine at the University of Queensland in 2007 with flying colours.
Since then she has completed a Master of Public Health degree, and undertaken three years as a Surgical Professional House Officer with Royal Brisbane, Prince Charles, Royal Children’s and Nambour Hospitals before shifting to GP training in 2013.
“I wanted to experience life outside of the hospital,” she explained.
Amy will certainly be experiencing life from March 2015.
“I finish my training here on the Sunshine Coast in January next year. From there, I have a job with Northern Territory Health as a Rural Medical Practitioner, based in Alice Springs but travelling out to communities during the week.
“It’ll be a great learning experience,” she said. “I haven’t worked in Indigenous communities before and it will be very different medicine than I practise on the Sunshine Coast.”
To Indigenous people thinking about studying medicine, Amy says “go for it”.
“Be ready to work hard,” she said. “You need to take your commitment to health and put it to work every day for many, many years.
“But if you’re committed to it, you can do it and the reward is worth it in the end.”