The commitment by two Aboriginal men – W & E Rubuntja – to the advancement of Indigenous people has been recognised with the naming of a new research and education building in Alice Springs in their honour.
The W & E Rubuntja Research and Medical Education Building – officially opened on Wednesday 24 March by the Minister for Indigenous Health, Rural and Regional Health and Regional Services Delivery, Warren Snowdon – is the new home for Flinders University’s Northern Territory Rural Clinical School and the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Central Australia.
Located within the grounds of the Alice Springs Hospital, the new building will be an education and medical research hub.
Flinders will teach its NT Medical Program – which includes the placement of trainee doctors in remote Indigenous communities – from the site. Baker IDI will house its cardiovascular and diabetes research in the new building which will include a clinical research facility for Indigenous patients.
Mr W Rubuntja and Mr E Rubuntja – who passed away in 2005 and 2006 respectively – were passionate and influential figures in the advancement of Indigenous land rights, health research, education and reconciliation.
Flinders Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Barber said the new W & E Rubuntja Research and Education Building represented “an excellent collaboration between Flinders as a teaching and research institution and Baker IDI, one of Australia’s leading medical research organisations”.
“We look forward to an even greater integration of our activities in the future which, I believe, can make a significant contribution towards ‘Closing the Gap’ in Indigenous health,” Professor Barber said.
Baker IDI Director, Professor Garry Jennings said: “These are both exciting and challenging times in Indigenous health. On the one hand governments are making significant efforts to address the well-documented inadequacies. On the other, we are still seeing and experiencing major tragedies in the lives of Indigenous people here in Central Australia.”
“Our multi-disciplinary team have an unwavering commitment to identifying and implementing real, lasting changes in Indigenous health. This new facility, in conjunction with our partnerships with local health care providers such as the Alice Springs Hospital, creates the infrastructure we need to make that vision a reality,” Professor Jennings said.
During the opening ceremony, Mr Snowdon said the Government has provided funding of more than $1.38 million to Flinders University to establish a dedicated centre for student support and administration of the Northern Territory Rural Clinical School (NTRCS) in Alice Springs.
The Minister also announced that further funding of $150,000 would be provided to Baker IDI to conduct two diabetes symposia for Alice Springs health practitioners about the prevention and management of diabetes in Aboriginal people.