According to the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA), there are currently about 90 Indigenous doctors in Australia. This amounts to 0.18% of the medical profession, despite 2.4% of the Australian population being Indigenous.

Many organisations have called for an increase in the numbers of Indigenous doctors and other health care workers as part of a strategy to improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians and to reduce the terrible disparities between their health and that of the general Australian population. These increasingly urgent calls have come from the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council, the Australian Medical Association (AMA), AIDA, and many other leading Australian health, human rights, aid and development organisations.

To increase the proportion of Indigenous doctors to the non-Indigenous level, the AMA estimated in 2004 that 928 more doctors need to be trained. As a start, AIDA has identified a goal of 350 extra Indigenous students enrolled in medicine by 2010.

Although many medical schools have strategies to recruit and retain Indigenous students, the goal set by AIDA may not be easy to achieve. Three of the schools are recognised as “leaders” in Indigenous medical education — the University of Newcastle, the University of Western Australia and James Cook University. We interviewed key representatives from each of these schools to discover what they have achieved, their strategies, and their plans for the future.