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RANZCO ‘apologises unreservedly’ to Indigenous ophthalmologist

22/11/2018By Myles Hume
RANZCO leaders have offered an unreserved apology to Australia’s first Indigenous ophthalmologist and vowed to undergo cultural sensitivity training after a series of meetings at this week’s Scientific Congress.

The meetings came after the college was criticised for its response to Dr Kris Rallah-Baker’s description of the racism and bullying he encountered while training to become an ophthalmologist. Rallah-Baker wrote about his experience in a Soapbox column for Insight, in which he argued for more cultural competency training and a larger emphasis on attracting Indigenous ophthalmologists.

RANZCO CEO Dr David Andrews responded with a letter-to-the-editor that disputed Rallah-Baker’s assessment and defended the college against accusations of racism – which caused dismay amongst the Indigenous health community.

Andrews’ response came to the attention of the wider public health sector, and spurred a group of 37 health professionals, academics, and Indigenous community members to write an open letter to RANZCO.

The letter, published on, accused the college of dismissing Rallah-Baker’s concerns and called on its leadership to apologise unreservedly, undergo cultural sensitivity training, and outline specific strategies to combat racism and discrimination in the training program.

The outcry prompted the college to extend an invitation to meet with Rallah-Baker at the 2018 RANZCO Scientific Congress in Adelaide, in order to “listen to his perspectives and invite a dialogue”.

Following a number of meetings, RANZCO and Rallah-Baker released a joint statement in which the college’s board and CEO apologised unreservedly and vowed to undertake cultural sensitivity training.

Both RANZCO and Rallah-Baker have requested Insight publish their joint statement in full:

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.

Designs for Vision

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.


More reading:

Closing the gap from both sides - 7 September
RANZCO CEO responds - 31 October
RANZCO urged to apologise to first Indigenous ophthalmologist - 8 November
RANZCO criticised for response to racism claims - 14 November


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