The 'changing face' of the College

Posted by Karen Myers, Curator, on June 30, 2023

2023 sees the 85th anniversary of the College's inauguration in 1938.

The College has come a long way and as any 85 year old will attest, it is a great achievement. However the achievements of our Fellows and Trainees are what makes the College thrive and to celebrate this we are asking for YOUR stories.

For context, Chair of the Library Cultural Heritage Collections Committee, Hon. Associate Professor Catherine Storey has noted that:

"The 85th anniversary of the College's inauguration provides an opportunity to collect the stories of our Fellows, people who represent the ‘changing face’ of our society and the College.

On the 14th December 1938, the inauguration of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians took place in the Great Hall of the University of Sydney. There were 232 Foundation Fellows, only five of whom were women. If we look at the names of the first 250 successful candidates for Membership in the new College, there are only 20 women, and a quick scan of the names suggests these Fellows were of British or European origin.

In the 85 years since the foundation of our College, there have been so many changes in medical practice, socio-economic conditions and educational opportunities, the composition of the Australian population and community expectations.

Women have entered medicine in numbers and now, at some Medical Schools exceed 50%. The ‘White Australia Policy’ introduced at Federation to curb non-European immigration was finally dismantled in 1973 and led to a significant shift in the make-up of the Australian population. Charles Perkins, one of only two Aboriginal students at the University of Sydney in 1965, arranged the now famous ‘Freedom ride’ to bring attention to the plight of his people in rural New South Wales and awakened the consciousness of First Nations People. In the wake of World War II, the merit-based Commonwealth Scholarships for University study resulted in large numbers of ‘baby boomers’ from all socio-economic classes entering tertiary education.

Has the RACP responded to these challenges? Does the RACP reflect these changes in the current composition of its Fellows?"

All Fellows and trainees are invited to provide a short story of their life as a physician, which reflects how they represent a ‘changing face.’ You may be the first in your family to study at University, or the first physician to push for a particular service in a particular hospital. You may work remotely or internationally. You may have come to Fellowship by a circuitous route via another profession - these will be stories, not necessarily of outstanding achievements but stories of personal reflection on the journey undertaken.

We hope that these stories will reflect the diversity of our modern College, diversity of its people, diversity of the fields of activity and the communities served. Our aim is that the compilation should reflect on how far we have come and where we still need to go to ensure that the RACP keeps pace with modern Australia – a culturally diverse nation with complex health needs, often in challenging settings.

You can add your story here