Improving the health of indigenous people is a critical and complex problem. Australian Indigenous people suffer from poorer health outcomes compared to non-Indigenous people. Addressing these iniquitous health outcomes is a challenge to the Australian healthcare system, and an important part of the medical school curriculum.


Using a five-step Framework analysis we analysed four years (2009 – 2013) of reflective reports from graduate entry medical students who had spent some portion of their elective term in areas with a high proportion of Indigenous patients, or in an Aboriginal Medical Service. Each researcher read the reports independently to establish an open coding scheme and identify recurring and dominant themes.


Despite curriculum reform and continued efforts to improve students’ understanding of the health issues faced by Indigenous Australians, the dominant themes exposed students’ stereotyping and prejudices. Many demonstrated a ‘cul-de-sac of selfcongratulation’ when engaging in the reflective process, instead of recognising the need for more empathic action.


Elective term placements may do little to help students understand the long-term crisis in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.


Take-home messages

More research needs to be done to develop curricula and delivery of teaching and learning resources to aid medical students’ knowledge, skills and attitudes towards Indigenous people as they attend healthcare services.