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Family ties inspire Bond's first Indigenous medical graduates

December 14, 2020

Myora Stone and Brioney Keats are the first Indigenous graduates from Bond University's medical program.

Growing up, Myora Stone’s Indigenous heritage was a centrepiece of her life. For Brioney Keats, her ancestry was a later discovery.

Recently the pair’s different journeys came together when they made history as the first Indigenous graduates from Bond University’s medical program, receiving their Bachelor of Medical Studies and Doctor of Medicine.

For Dr Stone, graduating from Bond builds on a special connection.

“My family is the Kombumerri people of Southport which is actually the land Bond is built on,” she said.

“I’ve been very privileged to be able to learn medicine on my traditional family land.

“We’re also from Moreton Bay, North Stradbroke Island and Moreton Island, the Ngugi and the Nunukul people as well.”

Dr Stone is Bond’s inaugural Indigenous Medical Scholarship recipient, while Dr Keats received the Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship in her second year, awarded through the Australian College of Nursing.

Dr Stone said going into medicine always appealed to her.

“When I learnt there weren’t a lot of Indigenous doctors, that made it more interesting for me,” she said.

“My grandfather was a huge support. He really wanted it to happen.

“He was so proud of the idea of having a granddaughter that would be a doctor, and the first Indigenous doctor in our family.”

By contrast Dr Keats, of the Gamilaroi people in New South Wales, said medicine was not on her radar when she was younger.

“I didn’t realise medicine was a possibility. I don’t have any other doctors in my family, so I’ll be the first,” she said.

“As soon as I started (at Bond) I knew it was where I was meant to be.

“At my previous university I always felt like I wasn’t using my full capacity or living to my potential, and I always felt there was something more. As soon as I started medicine, it just fell into place.”

Just like Dr Stone, Dr Keats was inspired by her grandfather, but his death a few years ago meant her graduation was tinged with sadness.

“My experience of culture when I was younger was very limited. We found out later in life than most people would normally that we were Aboriginal, and from then it’s been quite the journey.

“My Pop passed away in the second year of my degree, which was really difficult because he’s the root of my identity and my heritage and that’s where I see it coming from. I wish he could’ve been here to see me graduate.”

Dr Keats has embraced her ancestry and said the staff and students at Bond University’s Nyombil Centre have helped develop her own sense of culture.

“I can’t imagine ever not identifying as Aboriginal because I know this is my culture, this is my heritage, this is my line, these are my people,” she said.

“I think a lot of people would look at me and go, ‘Oh but you’re white’, and I think it’s really important to start breaking down those stereotypes.

“It doesn’t matter the colour of your skin, it doesn’t define your Aboriginality.”

Next year the pair will be colleagues while interning at Gold Coast Health before deciding on the next steps in their respective careers.

Dr Stone is considering working as a general practitioner but also has a particular interest in skin medicine.

She is also looking forward to life with her husband who she met at Bond and married on the weekend before graduation.

Dr Keats has a passion for women’s and children’s health but is also considering a future as a GP, and the potential of eventually opening a clinic combining Western and traditional medicine.

Both Dr Keats and Dr Stone hope they are the first of many Indigenous students to graduate as doctors from Bond. 

“Looking at both of us, we’ve had such different journeys in our path to medicine,” Dr Keats said.

“It should be an encouragement (to other Indigenous students). We’re so different but we’re both sitting here now, graduated doctors.”

Bond University offers scholarships of up to 100 per cent for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students commencing in the 2021 Medical Program. They cover accommodation and a living bursary for the first semester of studies to assist with the transition of the students to the Gold Coast.

More information on the Bond University Indigenous Medical Scholarship can be found here.