Doctor turns librarian to improve health at Ngak Min

Patients at Ngak Min Health now have access to a library of new books while they wait assist people with their literacy skills and improve their overall health thanks to an initiative founded by resident doctor Jenny Chandler.

Dr Chandler has been working at the clinic on the Djarragun College campus for just over a year and has extensive experience in mental health and paediatrics, in especially Cape York.

Dr Chandler said working at Ngak Min is the perfect mix of rural health while staying close to her family and she is able to relate to students who attend the college from remote communities.

A conversation that Dr Chandler typically has with students as they are getting health checks is what they are interested in and often they respond with reading.

In asking follow-up questions, most students reveal to Dr Chandler they do not have access to books at home, so she took it upon herself to start collecting books from op shops and the like for students to read and keep.

A colleague from Weipa then suggested the Indigenous Literacy Foundation so after doing a quick online application, the clinic now has a stockpile of books, appropriate and interesting to all ages.

Unlike a conventional library, the students are not required to return the books if they wish to bring them home to read to their younger siblings or pass them on.

“The idea is for kids just to be able to take them if they want them and if we find them strewn around that’s ok,” Dr Chandler said.

“As long as someone reads a book that is all that matters.

“There are so many books around the place that aren’t being read so you might as well have them accessible in case someone does want to read them.

“Having books for people to flick through when they’re waiting for an appointment is also good.”

The Indigenous Literacy Program contributed six boxes worth of books for Ngak Min to distribute and while there is a good amount that are focused on Indigenous culture and history, there are a few classics, such as the Guiness Book of World Records.

Dr Chandler believes that education is far more important than healthcare in fighting disadvantage and hopes to continue supplying books for students to read.

“What we may take for granted, easy access to libraries and that sort of thing, is not always the case for some of these students,” Dr Chandler said.

“I’ve worked a lot around the Cape and I could not feel more strongly that healthcare is not the most important thing that these kids need.

Education is the way that these kids will get out of disadvantage and find opportunity – obviously healthcare is important but education far supersedes that.

Dr Chandler

By having easy access to such materials, Dr Chandler is also hoping to make the clinic experience as positive as possible to hopefully entice more students to seek help regarding their health.

“There is a lot of health disadvantage here and there is a lot of poor health in our students, which we cannot fix immediately. A lot of that is to do with social determinations of health and is part of a bigger picture,” she said.

“But if we can give students a positive experience when coming to the clinic they might be more likely to seek help in the future with bigger health issues.”

Dr Chandler believes that as the program continues to grow and develop, more and more students will come into the clinic to not only check out what else they can read, but also to keep a better tab on their own health.


For more information visit the Indigenous Literacy Foundation website.


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