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Burma inspires proud Kamilaroi man

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Darren Hartnett’s father had always urged him to go into medicine, but it was not until the critical care nurse travelled to Burma as part of a medical team that he decided to take up the challenge.

Mr Hartnett went to Burma in 2010 as part of the Operation Open Heart Team organised through Sydney Adventist Hospital, when he was struck by the thought: “We are making a difference here; why am I not making a difference back at home?”

The question was given added potency when he learned not long after his grandfather died that he learned of his Aboriginal heritage.

“My grandfather never spoke about it because of the hurt involved – he was separated from his family when he was young and sent to work for a farmer. He did not have a choice,” Mr Hartnett said. “It was one of those taboo subjects that was never spoken of when he was alive.”

Now into the third year of a medical degree at Newcastle University, Mr Hartnett, who has spent much of his career as a nurse working in intensive care and coronary care at a major Sydney hospital, is considering working the New England area in critical care or as a rural GP – roles he hopes will involve helping Indigenous patients.

“I have always thought I would end up in critical care, but recently I have done placements with rural GPs and I have found it very rewarding,” he said.

“Knowing that within the next few years I can be out in the community assisting our own Indigenous population makes me proud of the fact that I am a Kamilaroi man.”

He is already contributing to the Indigenous community through his work for the Miroma Bunbilla Pre Medicine entry program, where he is helping aspiring Indigenous doctors.

His path ahead has been made easier by the fact he has been awarded the AMA Indigenous Peoples’ Medical Scholarship for 2016.

To help make ends meet Mr Hartnett, who has two young children, has had to combine the workload of a full-time student with part-time work as a nurse. He said the $10,000 a year scholarship would make a huge difference in helping his family get through while he completes his studies.

The scholarship was established in 1995 with a contribution from the Commonwealth, and the AMA is looking for further sponsorships to support its commitment to Indigenous health.

Adrian Rollins