The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) has apologised “unreservedly” for its treatment of Australia’s first Indigenous ophthalmologist, Dr Kris Rallah-Baker.
The College has also pledged that its Board and CEO will undertake cultural safety training.
As reported previously at Croakey, health professionals, academics and members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and health services published an open letter condemning the College for “its callous disregard of his [Rallah-Baker’s] experiences of racism and bullying and the attempt to publicly undermine his integrity and commitment to his profession and his people”.
Rallah-Baker is a Fellow of RANZCO and President of the Australian Indigenous Doctor’s Association. As the tweets and photographs below show, his recent graduation was celebrated with colleagues, family and friends at a Fred Hollows Foundation event.
The statement says:
We had a very positive meeting and the College acknowledges and apologises unreservedly for any distress experienced by Dr Rallah-Baker and his family including in relation to our recent communications in the press.
The RANZCO Board realises that its communication could and should have been better and more understanding of Dr Rallah-Baker’s experience. We confirm our desire to work together to ensure the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders doctors in the training program and to improve health outcomes in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
We will collaborate closely to ensure a positive environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander trainees and to improve cultural safety amongst College members. Dr Rallah-Baker is a member of the RANZCO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Eye Health Committee and has accepted the role of vice-Chair of the RANZCO Reconciliation Action Plan committee.
To demonstrate its commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and reconciliation and to set an example for the College, the RANZCO Board and CEO will undertake cultural safety training.
We look forward to fostering positive relationships with other organisations involved with improving health outcomes for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples of Australia.”
Dr Chelsea Bond, one of the signatories to the open letter to the College, welcomed the statement.
Dr Mark Lock, who administers a public Facebook group on cultural safety and security, commented there that the apology was “a good outcome”.
I think one of the messages here is that RANZCO has a track record in overt activities to address the disadvantage of Australia’s First Peoples but the cultural norms of the organisation reflected deeply embedded covert social norms of discrimination, and that’s going to be a long-term challenge to address.
One thing that I’d like to see is more transparency and accountability by RANZCO on addressing Dr Rallah-Baker’s concerns.”