An iced coffee and a Prime Minister

A Farmers Union Iced Coffee, a fortuitous encounter with a Prime Minister, and some clever thinking were early signs of a bright future for Flinders University’s first Indigenous medical graduate.

Of his favourite memories from Flinders University, our first indigenous medicine graduate, Dr Kane Vellar, treasures most the free supply of Farmers Union Iced Coffee that flowed from an idea he and fellow medicine graduates pulled off the day former Prime Minister Julia Gillard arrived to officially open the new Northern Territory Medical School.

‘It was a particularly fond memory of mine while at Flinders University – Northern Territory when the then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, officially opened our medical school,’ Kane recalled.

‘In posing for a photograph we managed to have her hold a Farmer’s Union Iced Coffee in the palm of her hand while posing for the camera with students.

‘The free iced coffee supply that followed from the picture was an example of our entrepreneurial skills!’ he proudly recalls.

Kane was the first indigenous medicine graduate to complete his degree in the Northern Territory. The Northern Territory Medical Program (NTMP) provides training to Flinders University and James Cook University medical students. It also coordinates placement opportunities and support for allied health students and interstate medical students.

‘My top priority on graduating was to head out bush to help where it’s needed most,’ Kane says. ‘Being an indigenous graduate here in the NT is very special,’ he said.

‘It’s where we get to practise to best help our people in remote areas. Also in Darwin up to 50 per cent of our patients are Indigenous. Having an awareness of being able to communicate properly with patients is crucial, as is having that awareness to know when people don’t understand when they’re being spoken to by clinicians.’

Kane has fond memories of his time at Flinders.

‘Flinders graduates are known to be ‘outside of the box’ thinkers and I think this is a great quality of the people that it attracts to their medical program,’ Kane said.

‘On my journey through Medicine at Flinders, I found that their NT Medical Program afforded opportunities that are not otherwise available to students.

‘Let’s face it – who gets to travel to by small aircraft to their placements of a day to work in a remote Indigenous setting? Establishing a Medical Program in the NT was daring and adventurous and to be in the first graduates from this program wholly trained in the NT is an honour.’

Kane says studying medicine at Flinders was life-changing.

‘It is such a diverse and fascinating field where the possibilities are endless as a career pathway! The idea that you are on the frontline and trying to affect health outcomes in some positive way, shape or form drives my passion.’

Now employed as Psychiatric Registrar, Top End Mental Health, Northern Territory Government, Kane has maintained his connections with Flinders medical alumni.

‘Having graduated from the NT Medical Program with a small number of colleagues there will always be a special connection with fellow alumni, as we all achieved a first for Flinders – and our medical training together.’

Asked what he would say to a prospective student who is considering study at Flinders University, Kane said, ‘Be bold and achieve your dream!  Studying medicine at Flinders will change your life… for the better!’


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College of Medicine and Public Health Indigenous Medicine Stories

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