Developing a culturally competent health workforce is a key strategy in the struggle to provide quality healthcare services for Aboriginal people. Since 2000, the Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health has implemented a comprehensive vertically and horizontally integrated Aboriginal health curriculum across the 6 year MBBS program at the University of Western Australia. This involves considerable core teaching, a range of options, electives and selectives plus an Aboriginal health specialisation within the MBBS degree, with assessment in each year of the course.


This paper describes the context and background of the implementation of a comprehensive Aboriginal health curriculum. A key shift in understanding and engagement occurred when students were required, in their fourth year medical rotation, to complete a comprehensive case history and discussion, including reflective comments, in relation to an Aboriginal person they have seen during that rotation. From 2003-2009, 1180 students completed the Aboriginal case history in their fourth year medical rotation. 519 (44%) of the reflective comments were reviewed to reveal 14 key themes that show why this particular assessment task enhances student engagement in Aboriginal health issues. Of the reflective comments, 416 (79.6%) had statements that fitted into the identified themes.


The authors discuss their experiences, focusing on this particular assessment, some of the students’ reactions to it, and how this provides a ‘turning point’ in students’ engagement with the health of Aboriginal peoples.