Despite incredible adversity, Vinka Barunga is pursuing her dream of becoming Derby's first Aboriginal doctor.
Vinka witnessed high rates of substance abuse, chronic disease and suicide while growing up in the Aboriginal community of Mowanjum, south-east of Derby.
Determined to break the cycle, the Worrora woman graduated from UWA with a Doctor of Medicine degree in 2016, and is in the first year of her internship.
For as long as Vinka can remember, medicine has been of interest. The most significant influence and inspiration for her is her family and community.
My family and culture have defined who I am, shaped how I see the world and showed me where I belong. A large part of my drive to study medicine has been to give back to Indigenous Australia, in particular the Aboriginal people of the Kimberley.
“I’ve seen the living and health conditions of Aboriginal people, of my own family. I know and understand how history has influenced what we are seeing in Indigenous Australia today and I want to be part of the positive changes that are and will continue to happen in the future.”
The School of Indigenous Studies and the Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health (CAMDH) have been big supporters of Vinka during her journey, offering support, mentoring and friendship.
“There are people at UWA who will give everything to see their students succeed,” Vinka says.
During her degree, Vinka was given the opportunity to study back home in Derby.
I completed an obstetrics/maternity term and was able to be present at many births and deliver a few babies. Being part of helping bring families together and bringing life into this world – there are no words to describe that feeling.
Motivated to succeed
Completing her degree has not been without its challenges for Vinka, who lost her parents while studying. Yet she is determined to only let this fuel her passion for medicine and continue the pursuit of her life’s goal.
I feel the loss of my parents will have a significant impact on how I will practice medicine, as it has already played a role in how I define myself as a person.
For a long time, she found it very difficult to find the motivation to continue her studies. However, through the immense support of CAMDH and the Medical School staff, she persevered.
"It has been a long and challenging journey, but I have enjoyed every step of the way and am excited about how my final year colleagues and I will fare in the years to come."
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