Vinka Barunga is determined to be the first Aboriginal doctor in her community.
A two-hour drive from Broome is the town of Derby. It’s a large town for the Kimberleys with a population of over 9000 and the two distinct wet and dry seasons which mark out this part of Australia.
It’s from this town that a 28-year woman has come – and now returned. A young woman determined to make her mark. Determined to give back. Determined to make a difference.
Vinka Barunga knew from when she was a child running through the streets of Derby that she would be a doctor.
Vinka, who was raised in the Aboriginal community of Mowanjum 10 kms away remembers running half dressed through the town as a child and swimming fearlessly in the crocodile infested waters.
She told Mamamia “I feel really lucky to have grown up in Derby – I was able to have a childhood experience where running around without shoes was a necessity and spending the day in an old dirty was the norm.”
She remembers the health struggles too. The ear infections and watching the ravages of a community struggling the destructive nature of alcohol.
“You grow up in a community where you see domestic violence and you see people drinking and you think that that’s the way of life,” she says.
“Growing up I saw sickness” she told Mamamia “but didn’t fully understand what that meant for my community and my culture. “
“It was also in high school that I began to understand how the history of Australia’s treatment of Indigenous people have impacted health and suffering today.”
Last night she was featured on the SBS program Living Black, Kimberly Healing. She told SBS that ever since her mother bought her a plastic stethoscope she knew.
“I think I was always a little bit medically-inclined,”
“I was always that kid who wanted to put bandaids on and take someone’s temperature when they’re sick.”
She was going to be a doctor.
And now this young woman – who studied medicine at the University of Western Australia in Perth is back, back in the town from which she came.