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“I am pleased and honoured,” Dr Anand Naidoo of Coffs Harbour NSW told Indian Link, about his Australia Day felicitation this year.
He added laughingly, “It never crossed my mind that I would be put up for this honour. Wondered why anyone would bother!”
Dr Naidoo came to Australia from South Africa as a young doctor in 1978, serving in Sydney and Coffs Harbour.
What would he say has been his career highlight?
“Saving many lives, working as a regional paediatrician. But that’s what we do. If you’ve been in this line of work long enough, you’ll have faced several situations in which you’ve been able to save lives and help young families.”
To serve in a regional setting is another highlight, he noted, taking medicine to regional and remote communities, even though Coffs Harbour is not exactly remote.
“The advantages for rural doctors of course, also include lifestyle. Coffs, with its beachside setting, is paradise!”
‘Paradise’ is a term he also uses to describe his adopted country, especially given his experiences of Apartheid South Africa, where his family has lived since the early 1900s.
“Although I have good memories of my childhood, these are overwhelmingly predominated by the racist rule, police brutality, control of where we could or could not go. I’m pleased or see the back of it. Of course, the situation has changed, now that it is politically different.”
He faced no such issues here in Australia.
“There were many doctors of colour when I arrived here,” he recalled. “I’ve worked with many doctors of Indian origin for example – all brilliant, they function at a very high level.”
How would Dr Anand Naidoo advise young doctors coming in today as New Australians?
“I’d say to them, do work to the best of your ability. It’s all about effort, effort, effort. This is a fair country, and it will give you opportunities. There could be barriers to entry to begin with, but isn’t that true of any country – no one will accept you straight off with open arms. Many people of colour are now heads of departments, doing really well. You can see that in the Indian diaspora – the barriers are high, and those that do get through are talented. By no means is this sheer luck; there’s thousands of years of history behind such achievement. Today’s Uber driver is the parent of tomorrow’s professional – it’s part of their cultural strength.”