New era of respect for UQ Indigenous Medical students

16 September 2020

The presence, knowledges and voices of Indigenous students are now getting the ‘respect they deserve’, thanks to landmark changes within the UQ Medical Society (UQMS).

That’s according to UQMS Indigenous Officer Ella Ceolin, who says “it finally feels like we are being valued by the organisation”.

“The Indigenous medical students are incredibly proud of these changes and are very excited to see what happens in the future,” she says.

UQMS Indigenous Officer Ella Ceolin
UQMS Indigenous Officer Ella Ceolin.

Founded nearly 85 years ago, UQMS is Australia’s largest medical student society.

Until the recent changes in its representative structure, the Indigenous Officer position was only given a third-tier role, at the lowest level of the organisation.

“The role's original placement within the organisation's structure was very inappropriate and seemed like an afterthought,” Ella says.

“Further, the role was not an identified position, which in the past has meant that a non-Indigenous person represented all Indigenous medical students in the cohort.

“Because of this, historically, Indigenous medical students have been very disengaged with the role and with UQMS.

“When I stepped into the 'Indigenous Officer' role in 2020, my vision was to de-tokenise the position and put the role in a place of power where it can create change and better represent and support Indigenous medical students.

“I envisioned a year of strength whereby Indigenous medical students' presence and voices were valued by UQMS and where our connection to the organisation was strengthened and valued.”

Ella says that nine months of effort has resulted in the 'Indigenous Officer' position being redefined and officially moved up to the management committee.

“This role also now has the security of being filled by an Indigenous person,” she says.

“Accompanying this move, the portfolio of 'Indigenous Officer' has been expanded with the creation of three additional Indigenous roles within the organisation (Indigenous Co-Officer, Indigenous Phase 1 Representative, and Indigenous Phase 2 Representative).

“To our knowledge, this is the first time in nearly 85 years that an Indigenous person has sat on the management committee of UQMS and, with the movement of the 'Indigenous Officer' role, we have secured an Indigenous presence on the management committee for many years to come.

“Additionally, to our knowledge, this will be the first time in nearly 85 years that there has been more than one Indigenous person in leadership positions within the organisation. 

“These changes mean that Indigenous medical students will get the exposure and respect they deserve.”