Doctors new to Aboriginal Australia are not infrequently surprised that their choice to work with the needy and underprivileged is not cause for unconditional positive regard. The naïveté of this position reflects the assumption that the nature of medical work somehow separates doctors from other less caring Europeans who have intruded into Aboriginal Australia.
In this paper the ambivalence with which medical professionals are viewed by Aborigines is explored through an examination of particular historical instances drawn from northern Australia, particularly the Kimberley region of Western Australia. It may be that a willingness to interrogate preconceived notions of privileged access will be in the best interests of the profession, and of doctors choosing to work in Aboriginal Australia.