Erika Chapman-Burgess is becoming a leader in Indigenous health, but it has not been easy as she has tackled racism, discrimination and prejudice throughout her journey in becoming a doctor.
Dr Chapman-Burgess is a quintuplet and grew up in the small country town of Glen Innes in northern New South Wales.
While it was an idyllic childhood, she also faced her fair share of racism.
"It's not until you move away to a bigger place like Newcastle that you realise just how racist regional Australia can be," Dr Chapman-Burgess said.
When she first entertained the idea of becoming a doctor she had to keep it a secret, only telling her mum and dad because she knew what people would say.
"I was told by my careers advisor that I wouldn't get into medicine, so I shouldn't bother applying," she said.
When she shared the news that she was accepted into the University of Newcastle to study medicine, people reacted with disbelief.
"'Oh, medical science?' And I'd say 'No, medicine'," she said.
"Their reaction would be 'Oh, like how?' And then people were double-checking in the paper with the university's first round offers, that my name actually had Bachelor of Medicine next to it."
Positive racism has also been a challenge, and she has faced criticism from her cohort for being admitted to the course through the university's Indigenous pathway scheme, called Yapug.
"I was constantly justifying myself," Dr Chapman-Burgess said.
"I worked my butt off to get academic awards, but you still feel like an imposter by the way other people treat you."
Dr Chapman-Burgess is now working as a resident for the Hunter New England Local Health District in NSW, and is hoping to become an obstetrician.
'We're told we're dumb, we're stupid'
Yapug program convenor Sharlene Leroy-Dyer said statistics showed Indigenous people were well behind when it came to educational outcomes.
"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are less likely to go to university — realistically it's harder, we don't get the same opportunity base," Dr Leroy-Dyer said.
"A lot of Aboriginal people come from a deficit base within school, so we're told we're dumb, we're stupid — I was a classic example of that.
"It's heartbreaking that, in this day and age, our kids are still being told that. I could give you hundreds of examples of people in exactly the same situation as Erika.
"When I first came to university, I handed in my first assignment and I was told I didn't belong here."
Dr Leroy-Dyer is the first Aboriginal person to get a PhD in management at the University of Newcastle.
She said Yapug was a program that helped local Indigenous students complete any university degree.
"We instil within that program not only skills for education, but skills for life as well as culture," she said.
"We can do it. We do have the ability and the skills, we just have to have the right programs and the right support mechanisms."
Sixty per cent experience racism or bullying
Australian Indigenous Doctors' Association (AIDA) president Kali Hayward said racism continued to be a problem.
"It does need to be spoken about — the word racism needs to be out there, and we need to have some conversations about what we can do about it," Dr Hayward said.
"We at AIDA are working with the universities and colleges to face this issue around racism and bullying. It's a very real issue."
Dr Hayward said it was not just an issue for Indigenous healthcare practitioners.
"I think this is something that needs to be tackled right from very early on," she said.
"From kindergarten to Year 12, we need to normalise the discussion around Aboriginal history and Aboriginal people so that it isn't something 'other'.
"I think within medical school training we need to normalise teaching around Aboriginal health and Aboriginal health issues, just like we do with cardiology and dermatology.
"It's an ongoing learning practice, rather than just a once-off and a bit of a novelty. I think we need to embed it into our system."
It needs to start with government
Dr Leroy-Dyer said there was still a lot of work to do and a lot to overcome.
"We need to change the mindset of a lot of people, and I think it needs to start with our Government actually recognising the true history of Australia," she said.
"If they did that, and if they promoted the true history of Australia, then I think we would have steps towards actually getting out of the deficit for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
"We're the most disadvantaged people in our own country. It's actually a crime, and it really needs to change."
This article was published and provided by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.