Tatum Bond is a proud Indigenous FACEM, whose heritage hails from the Ngajanji tribe, the rainforest people from the Southern Atherton Tablelands. She grew up in Gladstone in Central Queensland but has always felt at home in Cairns. Recently fellowing in emergency medicine, she splits her time between Cairns Base Hospital and a retrieval position with RFDS. At SSEM22, she’ll be presenting in the Bubbles session.
Questions and Answers
Why are you wearing a jumper?
It’s freezing cold. It’s like 20 degrees.
How did it feel to pass the exams?
It feels like a giant weight has lifted off my shoulders. Relief. When I read the result I burst into tears. It was completely opposite to what I thought I would feel. I thought I would just scream and shout and be happy and excited. But I didn’t realise how much emotion I was carrying, waiting for that result. That lasted for about half an hour, an hour. Then it was like floating on a cloud.
Where will you be in 10 years time?
I love Cairns. The town and my family that’s here. If I were to leave Cairns it would be to somewhere regional, potentially outside of Queensland… northern New South Wales or Tassie. My long term retirement goal would be to go somewhere small like the Atherton Tablelands, and retire on some acreage.
What’s your heritage?
My great-grandmother was an indigenous lady from the Ngajanji tribe, which is up in the southern Atherton Tablelands around Millaa Millaa, heading towards Innisfail in the rainforest area. She was one of the only survivors of a massacre, at a place called Butcher’s Creek. She was 14, escaped, got a job at a property and fell pregnant. My mother’s mother’s side is Irish, and my great-grandmother was the only one of five siblings to survive famine in the early 1900s. My father’s family is very English.
Does anyone still speak Ngajanji dialect?
Not that one. No. There’s very few people. When I was in med school I did a placement up in Atherton and we did a walk with an indigenous elder. He mentioned that there were still a few people around but the dialect was gone.
Does being an Indigenous FACEM define you?
It does try to define you. There are a lot of people who would like to push the fact that I am Indigenous as my only selling point. But I would like to think that as a doctor and a person it doesn’t define me. It’s part of my identity. But I have a lot of other things that are part of my identity.
Are you afraid of anything?
At work? The answer is probably not. When things come in I enter a different sphere, I just go into that medical mode and I think through ABCDE. In life… I guess that everyone’s afraid of not being the best person they can be. Not ticking the boxes and achieving everything. And I’m afraid that my dogs will die some day.
Are we going to close the gap in child mortality?
We’re not going to do it in the time frames that they have said. We’ve done very little in the last 10 years. If we’re talking about neonatal and infant mortality then there’s been some improvement. But if we’re going up to the age of 18, we need to be talking about suicide… it is the biggest cause of death among teenagers, and the amount of trauma that each suicide gives to the community just snowballs. Every second Indigenous patient I see has this story of severe trauma.
What’s the most beautiful place in Queensland?
A couple of weeks ago I went to Hinchinbrook Island and we camped at Zoe Bay, and we went up to the top of Zoe Falls. It’s an infinity pool overlooking the rainforest, a crystal clear bay and out to the ocean… A favourite place to fly over is the Torres Straits. The colour of the water is just breathtaking every time… But I’m always drawn to the green rolling hills of the Atherton Tablelands, creeks to swim in, and space…
Is flying lonely?
No. Not at all. I spend every single one of my flights chatting to the flight nurse and pilot. They are so full of fun, trivia, information and knowledge… they have done so many amazing things. I really enjoy the small team.
What’s the worst meal you’ve ever had?
Somebody tried to make me eat haggis in Scotland once.
What are you watching?
I have just watched the 400th episode of Grey’s Anatomy.
I feel like I’ve come this far. I need to keep going.
Tatum Bond will be presenting at the Spring Seminar on Emergency Medicine, Noosa, 18-21 October 2022.
Spring Seminar on Emergency Medicine
Noosa, 18-21 October 2022