DEA @ UoN have been affiliated with NUSA since 2017. The club consists of a group of passionate medical students who are not only concerned about the natural environment, but are also doing something about it.
Doctors of the Environment Australia @ UoN from left to right – Nina Wang, Georgia Brown, Alysha Bagster, Maxine Manila, Victor Ly.
I caught up with the club’s executive and members including the president, Georgia Brown, to ask them about their experiences running a club at UoN in 2019 -
Why did you start this club?
We started the club because we are passionate about the environment and how it impacts health. We had heard of the national non-profit organisation Doctors for the Environment Australia (DEA), which is run by medical students and doctors around the country, but unlike other medical schools, there wasn’t a student DEA contingent on campus in Newcastle. We realised that a university club would provide some structure for our passion and provide leverage such as funding and the ability to run events, to better mobilise medical students to get involved in climate action.
DEA as a national body utilises the status and community presence of health professionals as an advocacy tool to raise awareness about environmental issues. In society, doctors have a strong and respected voice and people tend to listen more to what they have to say - which helps us get our message across. Also, as practising clinicians, there is an obvious connection between environmental impact and the impact on society – from respiratory problems to mental health issues associated with the coal mining industry.
What events have you held so far this year?
We hold regular Open Meetings to encourage students to speak about their environmental concerns and help us organise our campaigns and events. During the annual Medicine O’Camp, we ran a “capture the flag” activity with an environmental message - encouraging students to think about the limited time we have left to act on climate change.
We have also held stalls at the faculty of Health and Medicine O Week. This helped raise some awareness of our club to new students at UoN. In the lead up the Federal election we collaborated with a range of other medical societies and held a Think Tank event that discussed the different political parties’ policies on a range of health topics, and we focused on the polices on climate action and health.
What is your biggest Stand-Out moment in 2019?
The Op Shop Bop has been our most memorable event this year. We were able to raise awareness of the high wastage of resources in the textile industry by running an event that encouraged students to wear recycled, thrifted and second-hand clothes. It was a standout for a few reasons – the outcomes were tangible as people got nostalgic and could re-wear clothes they had forgotten about or were thinking of discarding. It also gave us a chance to open an event up to wider participation as students from across different faculties got involved. It was also our first party, and we want to start having more events that are fun and accessible, besides continuing our more serious campaigns. We were also able to donate the profits to the Save Our Coast Alliance, a local organisation working to fight seismic testing off Newcastle’s coastline.
What hurdles have you had to overcome in DEA UoN?
The biggest hurdle is overcoming the stigma associated with climate action. Most people are aware of climate change, but may not feel empowered to act, or feel like it’s not a priority in their weekly schedules, as people may feel conscious about getting labelled in a negative way. We have a hard time convincing people that change is possible, even as a university student, and it’s important to do everything we can if we are to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change. To overcome this, we try and facilitate conversation instead of preaching, as healthy discussion which is far more effective.
What would you do differently if you had the chance?
We would definitely allow more time to plan and promote our events. Also, a central online calendar would be helpful for all clubs who are planning activities at UoN. If we knew what rooms were available ahead of time we could plan in advance more effectively. More collaboration with other clubs and organisations is on the cards for future events.
And finally, what advice would you give to an up and coming club?
Visit the NUSA website – everything you need as far as forms and information about running a club is there.
Start small by planning events within your means and capacity and work up to bigger things. Stay passionate, starting a club is hard and it may take time to grow, but if you keep a clear vision in mind and work with other motivated people, the club will thrive. It is important to reflect upon why you started or joined the club in the first place.
A proper handover for the new executive is really important! If you start the year with no idea about running a club because you weren’t previously shown it can be very daunting. A new executive should be able to hit the ground running because the old executive gave them a head start.