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15 Jul 2019

Family Doctor Week – July 21 to 27      


Dr Fiona MacDonald – Northern Territory   

In Darwin, Dr Fiona MacDonald is somewhat of a legend. A bit of a local hero. She won’t admit to that, but after 27 years at the Danila Dilba Health Service she is known to many as a dedicated doctor with a big heart.

Danila Dilba is an Aboriginal community-controlled Indigenous health service for the greater Darwin area.

“We have a different structure to most centres, but we still aim to be a comprehensive health service,” Dr MacDonald says.

“I’ve been here 27 years and have a long-standing relationship with many of my patients. I really appreciate that and so do they.

“We have half-hour appointments. We are very focussed on getting people to trust the medical service.

“Recently, there was one young woman who was in hospital and when asked if she had a GP, she said ‘my doctor is Dr Fiona’. That is a big deal for an Indigenous person to recognise you as their doctor and express that kind of trust in you. It meant a lot to me when I heard that.”

There are five clinics across the service, and they are all located so local people can access them easily. Dr MacDonald spends her time between clinics in Darwin and nearby Palmerston.

“We work slightly differently from most GPs. We are part of a team yes, but most patients see Aboriginal health professionals before seeing us,” she says.

“It is about cultural brokerage. Even with me, some patients still feel more comfortable and tell their stories differently with Indigenous people in the room. We have Indigenous staff.

“I was good at school and I went on a school trip to New Guinea. I loved it. I recognised the good work people were doing there. It made me want to help Indigenous people wherever I could. This is how I have been able to do that, through medicine.

“I am a Melbourne girl. I thought I would come up here for a while then I’d go back to inner city living in Melbourne. I met my partner here. I have three teenage children. It’s 27 years later and I’m still loving it.”




Published: 15 Jul 2019