IWD: Overcoming barriers for future generations

Morgan Liotta

6/03/2024 4:23:43 PM

The NT’s first Aboriginal pharmacist is now a GP, single mum, and leading advocate for gender equality in the medical profession.

Dr Simone Liddy
Dr Simone Liddy has led an impressive path towards a career in medicine, including being the NT’s first Aboriginal pharmacist. (Image: supplied)

Dr Simone Liddy knows first-hand the existing gender barriers many working women face.
But rather than allow these experiences to wear her down, she is using them as motivation to advocate for better conditions – not only for herself, but other females in medicine, and the future workforce.
‘Many female doctors and health practitioners have needed to make professional and personal sacrifices for their families,’ Dr Liddy told newsGP.
‘It is essential for the medical profession to support women in balancing the responsibilities we encounter on our professional and personal journeys.’
As part of the RACGP’s International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrations taking place across the country this week, Dr Liddy will share how becoming a first-time mum impacted her career as a GP, as well as the changes she believes are needed to better support women in medicine.  
A descendant from the Stolen Generation who grew up in the Northern Territory, Dr Liddy became the first Aboriginal pharmacist in the Territory, as well as recipient of the 2007 NAIDOC Youth of the Year Award and 2008 NT Young Australian of the Year.
But while she always had a passion for science, it was during a pharmacy work placement at an Aboriginal Medical Service that her career would take a different course.
‘I was inspired observing the holistic person-centred care provided by the GPs I shadowed at the clinic,’ Dr Liddy said.
‘This led me to pursue a career in medicine and returning to Darwin to work as a GP in Aboriginal health.’
Dr Liddy currently works part time at Danila Dilba Health Service, an Aboriginal community-controlled health organisation providing care to communities in and around Darwin, Larrakia Country.
‘What I love most … is the continuity of care we can have with our patients, getting to know them well, and building a trusting relationship with the patients over time,’ she said.
However, there are also parts of the job she says could – and should – be improved.
‘I’ve recently had to endure struggles to restart and balance my career as a GP and a single mum,’ Dr Liddy said.
‘It has highlighted to me the gender inequalities in the medical profession and in society in general.
‘I believe more support and flexibility can be provided to enable women in the medical profession to be able to balance family and careers in our constantly evolving, high-pressure profession.’
Dr-Simone-Liddy-article.jpgDr Liddy, with her son Harrison, says more support and flexibility is needed for women in the medical profession to balance family and career. (Image: supplied)

Gender inequalities within the medical workforce have also been highlighted by the RACGP, with female GP leaders noting that mums are often more likely to take time off work to care for sick and very young children than their male counterparts.
The latest Health of the Nation also shows that while females now comprise more than half of all GPs in training (61% vs 39%), males make up a larger proportion of full-time equivalent GPs, which may have implications for future workforce capacity should the status quo remain.
But while men currently work more and receive higher pay, women lead in another key metric – job satisfaction.
The importance of work–life balance is not lost on Dr Liddy, who draws from the guidance she received to pass the baton on to inspire and empower the female GPs of the future.
‘I have had the support of several inspirational women in the medical profession who have mentored me in my career so far,’ she said.
‘It is important for me to pay it forward and provide whatever support I can to the next generation of women in medicine.’
The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is #CountHerIn, with RACGP events being held across Australia and online on 7 and 8 March.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health female GPs International Women’s Day IWD Northern Territory

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