Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist April 2016 Contents Australian Pharmacist April 2016 I ©Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd.
Fostering cultural sensitivity
among pharmacy students
BY THERÉSE KAIRUZ
In January, about 300 students gathered at James Cook University in
Townsville in north Queensland, for the National Australian Pharmacy
Students’ Association (NAPSA) conference.
Early in the morning for the final day of
the conference the students gathered
for the day’s sessions.
Grant Sarra took the microphone.
‘ We are privileged to be here today
and to be able to see, hear, read and
write. And we have been educated to
a certain level – not everybody has this
opportunity. We should never take these
simple things in life for granted.
‘ We need to take the time to put
ourselves into the shoes of others –
those who may not be so privileged
– to better understand, appreciate and
respond to their needs.’
Students had come to the NAPSA
conference to learn, to share,
to challenge and to be challenged.
And Grant Sarra was one of the speakers
who gently challenged their views about
their roles as future health professionals
and as citizens of Australia.
Grant is one of the (many) people who
devote their time to helping others
make a difference in the lives of the
people of this country, all of its people,
especially its First People.
Silence fell in the auditorium as students
prepared themselves to listen to Grant
give an overview of Indigenous history
and culture in a pharmacy context.
How would he convey the history of one
of the oldest peoples in civilisation in
a short presentation? Were they going
to hear about government policies
and listen to reports about health and
On the contrary, they were encouraged
to be ‘good human beings’ and to
‘be clear about who you are.’ This is
important in the journey of engaging
with others about medicines.
Indigenous Australians are not a single
group of people. There are more
than 400 groups (tribes or families)
throughout Australia with more than
700 dialects. Pharmacists should not
expect to develop a one-size-fits-all
approach to talking about medicines.
There is no magic formula that will
make it easy to engage with Indigenous
Australians, gather a medication
history, or advise on the appropriate
use of medicines. However, there is
an approach that should be used in
all professional encounters – act with
honour, and integrity, and humility.
Treat the person with dignity.
In his straight-talking, direct yet gently
manner, Grant shared the humiliation he
had experienced as a young child and
hinted at the racism he has experienced
throughout his life. One could almost
feel a sense of shame descend on the
audience yet there was no bitterness in
his story; instead, he affirmed that it was
not the fault of the younger generation
and encouraged them to play an active
role in Australia as it ‘grows up’ from
Grant was firm about ‘men’s business’
and ‘women’s business’ and reminded
us that we are all born of women and
nurtured by women. He spoke directly
to the young men in the room, making
the firm commitment that there is no
place in Australian society for the abuse
He stated simply, and powerfully,
that: ‘We men need to know who
we are as men. Men must never lose
their connection back to women and
women’s lore, as we become fathers of
daughters and fathers of sons. As fathers
of daughters we would not expect or
accept our daughters being physically
or psychologically abused or mistreated.
As fathers of sons we must remind them
of their connection to their mothers,
their sisters and their aunties within the
family kinship system and to reinforce, in
their hearts, in their minds and through
their actions, that they have no right to
abuse other women with whom they
Hesitantly, brave young pharmacy
students left the comfort and safety of
their seats to become key players in the
story that was unfolding in the room.
It was a story about kinship and family
and the need to feel safe; it reminded
us how important it is to feel that we
have a place where we belong. It was a
powerful reminder of the uniqueness
of each individual. And an equally
powerful reminder of our vulnerability.
All people are unique and special but
no-one is perfect. We therefore have
no right to judge another human
being as we cross their path in life.
Look beyond what you see before you,
and feel a connection with your fellow
human beings; they, too, have become
socialised to think, feel and behave just
as you have. Allow your conscience to
be pricked, and change the way you
think, feel and behave. Engage, so that
collectively we can take the country
to where we are stronger. Let cultural
sensitivity take its rightful place in our
Grant Sarra was invited by Pharmacy at
JCU to present at NAPSA 2016.
Therése Kairuz, MPharm, PhD, GCHEd , Pharmacy,
College of Medicine & Dentistry, James Cook
University, Townsville, Queensland.
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