Community spotlight: Dr Gemma Johnston

Posted on 23rd Nov 2020

I love rural medicine and working with Aboriginal people and communities. I have been working in the Kimberley for the past four years within private practices, Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS) and Broome Hospital. I’m an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander GP registrar. My great grandmother is from the Jawoyn people of the Katherine River area of the Northern Territory and my grandmother is of Torres Strait Islander decent from Thursday Island and Badu. I currently work for Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service (KAMS), providing outreach health care to Bidydanga, Beagle Bay and the Kutjungka region.

As a medical student, I had the opportunity to do a six-week placement in Wyndham in far north WA. I fell in love with the community, the people, the clinic and the medicine. I knew then that I would be drawn back to the Kimberley at some point to work.

As an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander woman, I knew I was always going to work in Aboriginal health to help deliver holistic, comprehensive and culturally appropriate health care to the community. When I moved to Broome to work in the hospital, I had the opportunity to take up a community residency placement whilst working at Broome Hospital. This meant that I was able to attend a GP clinic once a week at Beagle Bay with the doctors at Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Service. I really grew to understand the involvement of the GP in the rural communities and the complexities of the health issues in the Kimberley.

I can see myself working in an AMS and with local Aboriginal communities well into the future. I am passionate about Aboriginal health and want to help use my skills and expertise to lead people to better health as individual and families. I want to work with and advocate for our local communities to have control over their health and allow them to determine their own affairs, protocols and procedures. No matter what you want to do following completion of your GP training, I would still strongly suggest training in Aboriginal health as a registrar! The opportunity is invaluable in learning how to provide culturally safe patient-centred care to Aboriginal people. There are specific challenges in Aboriginal health and the chronic disease burden is much higher than in non-Indigenous people. Training in Aboriginal health will provide you with skills that will be utilised wherever you decide to work, be it in metropolitan private practice or if you find yourself working in a remote clinic.