Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


The health status of indigenous peoples and others

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 21 August 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:404

Rapid Response:

Traditional Indigenous Health Providers

Dear Editor,

I would like to comment on part of the article regarding Indigenous
practitioners being trained in Western methods.

While this may be broadly true, there are many members of staff in
remote health services in Australian Indigenous communities (Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Nungkaris, etc.) who are
trained in, and practice, traditional medicine.

I recall an incident in a communtiy several hundred kms SW of
Katherine in the Northern Territory where I was a Remote Area Nurse (RAN)
a long time ago. A young woman was fitting and all the paraldehyde and
other western intervention we tried would not stop the fit. In came the
Nungkari (witch doctor) and worked his magic and the fit stopped.

In the back room of another clinic - this time in the Kutjungka
Region of the SE Kimberley there was kept a collection of bush medicine
which was used regularly. Even the RAN used some of the herbs.

In the Torres Strait one of the Torres Strait Islander Health Workers
spent a lot lot of money to travel down to Cairns to consult a traditional
healer as she knew that western medicine wasn't going to fix her up.

There are many other examples.

This is one of the many facets of being a RAN that makes it so

Yours faithfully

Liz Mattock.

Competing interests:  
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

02 September 2003
Elizabeth S Mattock
locum remote area nurse
various in remote Australia