PRESS RELEASE: Australia’s medical students demand action on child refugee health

The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) has today called on the Government to immediately release children from immigration detention centres at Wickham Point and Nauru, which have been deemed unacceptable for children by the recent Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) report.

AMSA is urging the Government to enact the report’s recommendation that “the only appropriate management of this situation is to remove the children from the environment which is causing or exacerbating their mental ill-health”.

AMSA President, Elise Buisson, said it has been clear for a long time now that these centres are unjust, unhealthy, and unnecessary.

“The AHRC report adds to the growing body of evidence confirming the genuine harms of Australian immigration policy on the health of refugee and asylum seeker children,” Ms Buisson said.

“As future health professionals, we consider the serious levels of physical and psychological distress uncovered in children at Wickham Point as evidence of the Government’s failure to uphold a duty to care to these vulnerable people.

“Clinical assessments conducted by senior paediatricians from the Children’s Hospital at Westmead found that 95 per cent of children surveyed, most of whom spent months in detention on Nauru, were at significant risk of developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“These findings become more ominous given Wednesday’s High Court decision, which enables the Turnbull government to enact plans to return 267 asylum seekers, including 37 babies and 50 young children, back to offshore detention on Nauru.

“The Government has indicated that it is prepared to return children to an environment that will almost certainly cause them to suffer psychiatric problems that are potentially lifelong.

“The Government needs to listen to the advice of the medical community, and act in the best interests of these children by implementing the AHRC report’s recommendations.”

Media Contact:

Tabish Aleemullah

PRESS RELEASE: Australia to lose up to 40 junior doctors nationwide as internship crisis worsens

AMSA Media Release – 18 January 2016

AMSA has today called on all governments for a resolution to the medical internship crisis, as serious shortages of internship places nationwide will see up to an estimated 40 junior doctors miss out. This will leave areas of health workforce need and rural Australia without relief.

AMSA President, Elise Buisson, voiced the concerns of Australia’s 17,000 medical students regarding the shortage of internships.

“Without an internship, medical graduates are unable to continue the necessary training to become the practising doctors that Australia needs,” Ms. Buisson said.

“These young doctors want to work in the Australian healthcare system – to give back to the communities that trained them and to give back to Australia’s areas of need. Without an internship, they’ll have no option to do that.”

Data from a recent AMSA survey showed 95% of students left without an internship would consider practice in a rural area.

“These young doctors are left without a way to become fully qualified, after investing years to successfully complete their degree. Australian medical graduates are being left in an unemployment limbo in a country that needs its doctors.”

Ms. Buisson warned, “This internship crisis is going to continue to affect the graduates of 2016. We’re concerned by recent projections that domestic medical graduates from South Australia will be missing out on internships beginning in 2017. We need expansion of internship settings and continuing funding of internship positions. This will require all governments to work together.”

“Furthermore, as recommended by the Medical Intern Review conducted by the COAG Health Council late last year, prevocational experience in non-traditional settings such as the community and private settings should be expanded,” stated Ms. Buisson.

“The Commonwealth Medical Internships (CMI) Initiative is an excellent federal government program that provides an extra 100 internship positions per year. Despite this, we still have junior doctors missing out.”

Ms. Buisson affirmed, “As the CMI program is set to be reviewed this year, AMSA will be strongly advocating for the federal government to continue funding the initiative.”

Media Contact:

Tabish Aleemullah


Open Letter to SA Medical Students

Australia is in the midst of an internship crisis and South Australia is the first state at risk of domestic students being unable to gain internships. The crisis will reach a peak in 2018 when it is predicted there will be a shortfall of 39 places for domestic medical students.

Since identifying the magnitude of the problem, the Australian Medical Students’ Association, Adelaide and Flinders University medical student societies have brought the issue to the attention of the Deans of both Universities, SA MET, AMA(SA), the Health Minister and the general public through letters, meetings, print media under the banner of the #internshipsinSAnity campaign.

Get more information, and a copy of the full letter here.



2016 MJA Dr Eric Dark Creative Writing Prize

Entries for the 2016 MJA Dr Eric Dark Creative Writing Prize are now open.

In partnership with Varuna, the Writers’ House, the Medical Journal of Australia’s creative writing competition is open to all practising and retired doctors, and medical students.

We’re looking for creative pieces of up to 1500 words, grounded in health or medicine and based loosely on the topic for 2016, “The spirit of adventure came upon me …”.

Medical students

Prize: a $500 voucher for a face-to-face or online course at the Australian Writers’ Centre.

Closing date:

Thursday, 31st March 2016

Please submit via our online submissions system:

Email: with any queries

Winning entries and other outstanding pieces of writing will be published in the MJA.

Screenshot 2015-12-18 14.28.40

Protecting medical students who report sexual harassment

Advocacy WinEarlier this year, AMSA received multiple reports from medical students suffering sexual harassment in a Queensland hospital. These students were anxious to raise this through their university’s medical faculty or clinical school, as the complaint regarded a Queensland Health employee who held a senior role in medical education.

These medical students were concerned that by engaging in the official complaints process, even a de-identified account of disclosing their experience of sexual harassment would lead to a significant risk of reprise both as a medical student or later impede their progression when working as a doctor in Queensland Health.

Student doctors sit in a grey area within hospital and university policies. Over the last few months, AMSA has been engaged with each level of the Queensland Health complaints process to provide these medical students with the opportunity to escalate these concerns in a safe and confidential manner.

The main deterrent inhibiting medical students from utilising the complaints process was the fear that disclosing their experience would lead to a deliberate adverse impact on future career progression. When this was raised with the Queensland Conduct Advisory Service it was stated that any claims of sexual harassment would be fielded by the respective local health network’s complaints process, completely independent of the hospital.

Queensland Health did however concede that there was an area of inconsistency in the definition of a Public Officer in the Queensland Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 that would  treat medical students differently to other Queensland Health employees when disclosing their experience of sexual harassment.

For instance if a Queensland staff member reports an incident of sexual harassment at a hospital, they are protected by the Queensland Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 which will enforce criminal charges if there is evidence of reprise under public officer protections granted by the Queensland Public Interest Disclosure Act 2010 s.12.

However, this Act classes medical students as non-public officers, meaning that if a medical student discloses an experience of harassment by a Queensland Health employee, they are placed alongside public hospital volunteers and visitors, who are not provided the same protections conferred to Queensland Health staff.

In order to address this discrepancy, AMSA wrote to the Queensland Ombudsman Phil Clarke in August requesting that medical students be offered the highest forms of protection if they choose to disclose experiences of Sexual harassment in Queensland Hospitals.

This month, the Queensland Ombudsman announced a formal review into the Public Interest Disclosure Act. They will be explicitly reviewing whether these protections should be extended to medical students and other volunteers in all Queensland state departments in their Issues Paper under 6.6.

AMSA is hopeful that this review that this will lead to a change in the legislation and meaningful impact for Queensland medical students. If a precedent can be set in Queensland, it could then be applied to other state legislatures to enable medical students to report instances of sexual harassment without the fear of reprise.

If you’re interested in contributing to the Queensland Ombudsman’s review into the Queensland Public Interest Disclosure 2010, email the 2015 AMSA Vice President (External), Brian Fernandes at

COPing with 21 hours of sleep (for two weeks)

COP21 in Paris is one of the Climate Change events of the Century. AMSA Code Green’s Alice McGushin is there in the thick of it. Here are her reflections from the first week.

If you haven’t heard of COP21 in Paris I evidently haven’t done my job properly. Since August last year, the Code Green team has been working tirelessly to raise awareness of the health effects of climate change and draw attention to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 21st Conference of Parties (COP21).

Every year the UNFCCC hosts a COP, which brings together member states, Civil Society Groups and Intergovernmental Agencies from all over the world to talk about international collaboration on Climate Change. COP21 in Paris is the biggest climate change conference the world has ever seen, with more than 40,000 participants including 25,000 official delegates from government, intergovernmental organisations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society. The aim of COP21 is to achieve a new global agreement that provides a clear long-term pathway to prevent catastrophic climate change.

In the lead up to Paris, we ran a campaign to engage medical students and health professionals to advocate to the Australian government the importance of Australia participating productively in negotiations for a new agreement for global action on climate change. We have had around twenty meetings between medical students and doctors and federal politicians to call on Australia to announce an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC – individual countries’ contributions to global emissions reductions) that is consistent with minimising the health impacts of climate change. We have run webinars, created videos, written dozens of blog posts and ran an ‘Amazing Race to COP21’. And amazing teams of global health groups, medsocs and Doctors for the Environment Australia members have run Code Green activities in medical schools all around the country.

I think my path has been leading me towards Paris for many years. I am here as one of six observer delegates for the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations. The rest of our team are from Tunisia, Canada, Denmark, Panama and Italy. We came here with the naïve ambition of influencing the negotiations to ensure that the health impacts of climate change are adequately addressed through specific recognition of health and strong commitments in the Paris Agreement at the end of the two weeks.

After six years of being involved with DEA, AMSA, IFMSA and, I thought my experience and knowledge in climate change and health was pretty good. But nothing could have prepared me for the organised chaos that is COP21. Let me describe an ‘average’ day. Our routine usually starts at around 6pm, where we discuss each of our schedules for the following day; spreading the six of us across meetings for YOUNGO, the Global Climate and Health Alliance, meetings for our country delegations, tracking negotiations, organising bilaterals with parties from different countries and attending and presenting at some of the thousands of side events at the COP21 venue and around Paris. We head home to our Airbnb to eat (usually around 9 or 10 pm), read the thousands of emails we receive each day and complete different tasks we haven’t had time to do during the day. We head to bed around 1 or 2 am and then get up at 6 am to make it to our first meetings of the day. On top of all this, I am still a WHO intern and running errands for the WHO delegation.

So what is actually happening at COP21? The first week was opened by an unprecedented 151 heads of state. Then negotiations began, with the main focus on the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) which is working on the draft agreement. They have been meeting all year in Bonn to prepare for Paris and have produced draft texts that have started at 100 pages, gone down to 20 something, gone back up to fifty and so on. Over the first week several new versions of the draft text were released, containing multiple options for many paragraphs. There have been many aspects of the draft agreement that have drawn fierce debate and delayed agreements. These include the long-term goal, 1.5 degrees or 2 degree limit to global warming, reaching the agreed annual $100 billion climate finance target, recognising human rights, gender and indigenous rights (and of course health!) in the operating text and whether or not we have a section dedicated to loss and damage.

Friday was a very hectic day for us. Two of us were at one health event and two at another in different places in Paris. At 10 am a new version of the draft agreement was released, along with ‘bridging’ proposals by the ADP co-chairs. All mention of health had been removed had been removed from the text, apart from the preamble, which has attempted to lump every issue associated with climate change together into one paragraph. We raced to action. Line and Betta, who were the only ones at the venue, ran from country to country, telling them of the importance of health in the text. I jumped on a metro to race to attend the Australian DFAT briefing to raise an intervention pointing out the lack of health recognition. We spent the rest of the day running around trying to talk to as many countries as possible. In the excitement, I lost my phone. I called it and fortunately the Netherlands answered.

Work on the draft text closed on Friday. Currently health still only remains in the preamble and it looks like it is going to that way. But what is more important to protect health is a clear and comprehensive commitment to achieving a limit of 1.5 degrees warming by the end of the century. Will we get there? The target is gaining traction, but we’ll see what we get at the end of the week. Stay tuned!

How is Australia going in Paris? After winning Fossil of the Year at COP20 in Lima, I had fairly low expectations for what Australia would contribute to the negotiations. However, I have been pleasantly surprised. Malcolm Turnbull announced Australia would ratify the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and double investment in clean energy research and development. On Saturday Australia announced we would support 1.5 degrees in the text and then on Monday Julie Bishop stated Australia would give $625,000 to support women to be involved in climate decision processes. But we still have a long way to go. Our current INDC target is far from sufficient to limit warming to 1.5 degrees and we are still not giving our fair share of climate financing.

But there is time to change – over the next week and over the next few years. What we need by the end of the week is a treaty that provides a pathway to allow us to achieve the change that is necessary. Keep an eye on developments over the next week and the final outcome on Friday! 

LAST MINUTE HIGHLIGHTS hot off the press:

  • I tweeted Arnold Schwarzernegger speaking and UN Russia retweeted me in Russian
  • We did an action and John Kerry walked past (obviously with lots of security) and gave us the thumbs up.
  • I smashed my phone running around the COP venue trying to convince the security that Richard Horton had a UN pass to speak at our WHO event
  • Tim Flannery bought me lunch yesterday

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Press Release: Australian medical students are professional on social media

Media Release:

23 November 2015


The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) is proud of its members and the high levels of professionalism they display on social media.

A report today in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) suggests that there are ‘damning’ levels of unprofessionalism being exhibited by students, however AMSA President James Lawler said today that this is not the case.

“The MJA study is a timely reminder for students of the need to exercise care in what they post on social media,” Mr Lawler said.

“AMSA has played a leadership role in giving students clear advice on how to manage their engagement with social media and believes the overwhelming majority of students are acting in a professional and responsible way.

“The MJA study clearly has a number of limitations in its methodology.

“While it makes a contribution to the debate over social media, its results need to be interpreted with caution.

“Social media is an important communication tool, and it is with us to stay.

“Issues of unprofessionalism are the same regardless of what communication tool is used. It is this conduct that needs to be addressed, as opposed to demonising social media.

“There are also a range of benefits from social media in medical education, such as the Free Open Access Medical Education movement ( #FOAMed).

“AMSA will continue to work closely with medical students to maximise the benefits of social media in their studies, on the path to a medical career.”

In 2010, AMSA worked with the Australian Medical Association to provide guidelines for the professional use of social media for doctors and medical students. The guide can be found at


Media Contact:

Maria Bilal


Medical students cautiously welcome COAG Review of Internships

The Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) welcomes the final report of the Review of Medical Internships from the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

AMSA President, James Lawler, said that although many of the most important aspects of medical training were left out of the review, the recommendations were important to modernise the internship.

“The reviewers have recommended a range of important measures for internships which medical students will welcome with open arms.

“The focus on intern training in a variety of patient care settings, particularly the expansion to other settings like General Practice, is important and should be taken up as a matter of priority by governments.

“Any training that aligns medical graduate outcomes with employer expectations will be better for interns and will be better for patient care.

“The provision of a two-year internship would be accepted, provided the supervision, curriculum, and assessment frameworks outlined in the report are also implemented.

“Developing a better career focus throughout medical education and training will also be a huge bonus if it is matched with the societal need for certain specialties in certain areas.

“Most importantly, a national training survey is vital for governments and employers to have a better understanding of their doctors in training.”

However, Mr. Lawler said integrating the first year of internship with the last year of medical school should be approached very cautiously, particularly as it would require a major overhaul of the curriculum of every medical degree in Australia.

“The onus should be on proponents of an integrated internship model to show that it is clearly superior to the current model, based on a pilot process that considers the whole of the medical education and training pipeline.”

Mr. Lawler also noted that medical students were disappointed the scope of the review left out key issues such as the insufficient numbers of internships for graduates and the concept of a national application system.

“There are over 100 medical graduates who will not be able to find an internship in Australia in 2016 and, as of 2017, up to 10 per cent of domestic graduates from South Australia will miss out.

“This shortfall is primarily due to a lack of places. But the slow, bureaucratic way in which internships are allocated each year between the States also contributes. A national solution is needed to allocate internships.”

The Final Report of the Intern Review can be found here.


Media Contact

James Lawler




Banner to promote with P2

Continuing on from our successful Not Just a Medical Student Edition, we’d like to keep exploring the theme of balance in medical school. However, rather than from the perspective of medical students who do incredible things outside of medicine, we would like to break this Edition down to Work versus Play, and what it means to medical students.

Find out how your peers from across the country work, play, work harder, play even harder and of course, balance them both. Perhaps, inspiration is even waiting for you somewhere between this edition’s two covers?

We sincerely hope that you have a good read and a laugh or two from this edition of Panacea! If you are interested in writing an article for future Panaceas, or have any questions about AMSA’s publications, feel free to email



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