In 2002, the Medical Deans of Australia and New Zealand, formerly the Committee of Deans of Australian Medical Schools (CDAMS) partnered with the Office of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (OATSIH) in the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) to establish and implement the CDAMS Indigenous Health Curriculum Development Project, later referred to as the Medical Deans Indigenous Health Project.

The Indigenous Health Project was hosted by Onemda VicHealth Koori Health Unit at the University of Melbourne and consisted of two phases.

Phase One

The major aim in phase one was to develop a nationally agreed curriculum framework for the inclusion of Indigenous health into core medical curricula.

Outcomes included:

  • A national audit of medical schools: to assess existing Indigenous health content in curricula and its delivery context. A National Audit and Consultation Report was published in August 2004 and was used to inform the national curriculum workshop where the issues implicit in developing an Indigenous Health curriculum framework were considered.
  • Development of the CDAMS Indigenous Health Curriculum Framework: consisting of a number of guiding principles; suggested subject areas and key student attributes; ten key pedagogical principles which enunciate the basic approaches most likely to produce successful content and contexts for learning; delivery and assessment guidelines; suggested processes for curriculum development; resources and capacity most likely to produce success. Given that each medical school has a unique pedagogical and curriculum approach, the framework was developed as a flexible guideline that could be used to contribute to the meaningful learning experiences of students and staff.
  • Establishment of a preliminary network of Indigenous and non-Indigenous medical educators: to lead and encourage curriculum implementation. This network is now referred to as the Leaders in Indigenous Medical Education (LIME) Network. A discussion paper on the LIME Network was developed as a means to stimulate further development and eventual implementation of a sustainable network of medical educators.

Phase Two

Phase two of the project commenced in July 2004 and aimed to consolidate the linkages that were developed in phase one into a sustainable, functional and effective network of medical educators and to further develop and implement Indigenous health content in medical curricula, using the Curriculum Framework as a guide.

Outcomes included:

  • Endorsement and accreditation of the Indigenous Health Curriculum Framework: all Deans of medicine formally endorsed the Curriculum Framework and it was included as part of the accreditation guidelines of the Australian Medical Council (AMC). This means that all schools are required to report on the implementation of the curriculum framework as part of their regular accreditation requirements.
  • Development and trial of the Critical Reflection Tool (CRT): an internal quality review process to support medical schools in ensuring the quality and effectiveness of their Indigenous health curriculum and Indigenous student support initiatives.
  • Facilitation of Australian Indigenous Doctors Association (AIDA) / Medical Deans Agreement for Collaboration: through which AIDA completed an audit of medical schools to assess their Indigenous medical recruitment and retention approaches.
  • Development of vertical integration of Indigenous health curriculum with the Confederation of Postgraduate Medical Education Councils (CPMEC): building on and adopting the approach of the CDAMS Indigenous Health Curriculum Framework in their development of a national approach to generate postgraduate medical curricula.
  • Collaboration with the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association (AIDA): to develop an implementation strategy for AIDA’S Healthy Futures Report which recommends best practice for the recruitment, retention and support of Indigenous students in medicine.
  • Establishment of the LIME Network: formalised at its inaugural conference called ‘The LIME Connection’ in Fremantle, June 2005 and convened again at the LIME Connection II in Sydney in 2007.
  • Launch of the LIME Network Website: an online resource established to promote LIME Network membership and to provide resources and share information about quality and effectiveness in Indigenous health curriculum development. The website also provides information about the LIME Connection proceedings and registration.

The Medical Deans Indigenous Health Project was completed in 2007. However, the LIME Network became a stand alone project forming part of the broader Medical Deans ‘Closing the Gap’ program, and has secured ongoing funding from the Australian Government Department of Health until 2020.

The ‘Closing the Gap’ program aims to create a forward agenda for the Medical Deans in line with the government’s commitment to close the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and provide health equality for Indigenous Australians.