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Brad Murphy vies to become first Indigenous president of an Australian medical college

Tom Zaunmayr -

Indigenous culture could hold the key to turning around Australia's healthcare crisis, according to the Kamilaroi man seeking to become the first Aboriginal leader of an Australian medical college.

Bundaberg-based doctor Brad Murphy is contesting the presidential election of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners among a field of seven candidates.

It would be a remarkable feat for the Gunnedah boy who came to the profession late and was once told in school he would never amount to anything.

Mr Murphy said Aboriginal values of family, collaboration and communication could be the tonic for Australia's "crisis-plagued" primary care system.

"Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander health has been somewhat of a welfare mentality," he said.

"If we actually, as a nation, resource indigenous health well... and we roll forward, then what I'm really proud about is that we're actually going to see Indigenous health drive the healthcare of our nation.

Kamilaroi man Brad Murphy wants to become the first Indigenous president of the RACGP.

"Instead of being the recipients of welfare, we are going to be the reason for why this nation actually enjoys a much higher state of health."

Mr Murphy said such change would likely complicate Closing the Gap targets, but it was a goalpost he would be "proud" to move as part of his legacy.

The clinic Mr Murphy runs with his Coonabarabran wife in Bundaberg today focuses on Indigenous and veteran's health, a product of his out-of-the-box healthcare journey.

Mr Murphy left school in year 10 and started his health career as a Navy medic. His health career was truly set in motion while watching the remarkable work of NSW paramedics saving heroin addicts while doing ride alongs in ambulances.

From there Mr Murphy became an intensive care paramedic and worked for the RFDS. Aged 35, he was one of two Indigenous graduates from James Cook University's first medical school.

His GP training saw him run a solo-doctor practice in Eidsvold, 130km inland from Bundaberg, where he established the now 15,000-member strong National Faculty of Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Health.

A product of Stolen Generations grandparents who hid their identity to escape the racist policy, Mr Murphy said his graduation had a profound effect on his family.

"To have your grandmother sit with her brother, and tell me how proud she was.. but to tell me with tears in her eyes that she should have been stronger, and given us an opportunity to help us to identify, no man should ever have to watch that angst in their grandmother's heart," he said.

"I know that she would be proud of my achievements and the man I have become.

"A lot of indigenous people who get into medicine... had a career or trade or whatever along the way before they get the opportunity down the track.

"When they get into medicine, often it's the first time they've ever had a voice and it's really hard because they want to then change the world from day one."

Mr Murphy said his appointment would send a strong message to ignore doubters and stay true to your dreams.

The new president of the 41,000-member body will be announced on September 12.

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