Presentation of the inaugural Peter Sharp Scholarship

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Dr Peter Sharp was appointed as the first Medical Director at Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service in 1989; a year after the service was opened.

He had a high level of understanding of the complex health, social, emotional, and cultural needs of his patients, working tirelessly to improve the health of those experiencing alcohol, tobacco and other drug problems and of those in detention.

This won him the respect and trust of generations of local Aboriginal people over his 22 years at Winnunga and he was affectionately known as ‘Dr Pete’ by the staff, patients and the wider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Dr Sharp’s commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health has been acknowledged by the many awards he received, honouring his achievements. These awards include:

  • The 2004 NAIDOC Award for his ongoing commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health;
  • The 2008 Local Hero Award in the ACT Australian of the Year Awards, also for his work at Winnunga including: running clinics at local and regional correctional facilities and working with older people affected by alcohol and substance abuse;
  • The 2009 AMA Excellence in Health Care Award for his work as medical director at Winnunga;
  • The 2010 Queen’s Birthday Honour Award as a  Member of the Order of Australia for service to medicine in the field of Indigenous health, clinical, teaching and administrative role at Winnunga; and
  • The 2011 ACT NAIDOC Community Spirit Award.

Dr Peter Sharp made a genuine commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health that was strengthened by his clinical experience, and outstanding knowledge and understanding of the complex health, social, emotional and cultural needs of his patients.  A genuinely humble and sincere man, he always said that it was his privilege to serve the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

He valued highly the trust that his patients placed in him for their health and the health of their families, he was also a committed teacher and mentor of medical students, inspiring the next generation to follow in his footsteps.

To help to continue Dr Pete’s legacy, the ACT Government funded the Peter Sharp Scholarship Program. This Scholarship program will also contribute to achieving the vision of the ACT Health Reconciliation Action Plan that ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in the ACT and region enjoy a quality of life, life expectancy and health status equal to all Canberrans’.

There are three initiatives under the Peter Sharp Scholarship Program.

The first initiative is the Indigenous health stream placement scholarships which are offered to all students in the ANU Medical School Indigenous health stream. These scholarships provide support for travel and accommodation costs related to attending activities such as cultural immersion programs, conferences or workshops.

The second is the Indigenous student recruitment initiative that supports the enrolment of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander students at ANU Medical School and the third initiative is the Peter Sharp Scholarship. This scholarship supports the education and accommodation of a medical student in the ANU Medical School Indigenous health stream.

I am very pleased to have presented the inaugural Peter Sharp Scholarship to Danielle Dries. Danielle is an indigenous medical student who undertook her undergraduate degree in physiotherapy.

Danielle has worked with Indigenous people from different communities around New South Wales and Tasmania, both during her undergraduate studies and as a qualified physiotherapist.  She gained experience working in Dubbo, Orange, Sorell (Hobart), Coffs Harbour and Lismore.  This has provided her with an insight on different aspects on Indigenous health and the way it is perceived within different communities.

Each exposure has been essential to her personal and professional development providing Danielle with opportunities for reflection and continued learning.