Max Kamien interview, 2 October 2012

Dublin Core


Max Kamien interview, 2 October 2012




A graduate of the University of Western Australia, Emeritus Professor Max Kamien would become Foundation Professor of General Practice at the University in 1976. Professor Kamien has a long history of working with those less-fortunate in Australia and overseas. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Western Australian Centre for Remote and Rural Medicine, an organisation which financially supports rural medical undergraduates to complete medical degrees and return to practice in rural WA. Professor Kamien continues to work at the Ord Valley Aboriginal Medical Service in Kununurra. He has been awarded for his commitment to education within rural communities and for his efforts to improve the health of Indigenous Australians.


Kamien, Max


University of Western Australia Historical Society


Copyright holder University of Western Australia


MP3 files


Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


John Bannister


Max Kamien


Interview 1: 52 minutes, 46 seconds
Interview 2: 55 minutes, 26 seconds
Interview 3: 59 minutes, 8 seconds
Total: 2 hours, 47 minutes, 20 seconds

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbs

Time Summary

Interview 1
00:00:00 Charles St North Perth 1936. Family background. Warsaw and New York, Palestine, Russia, Melbourne. Encouraged to come to Perth, Western Australia. Mother’s jobs. Survivors of the Holocaust.
00:07:00 Memories of schooling and Ernie Smith. North Perth and Modern School. Playing tennis inspired by school. Memories of Perth Modern School. Anti-Semitic teachers. Jeremiah Haire* Morris Zines* inspired career direction. Saviour c’est pouvior. Seventy.
00:13:15 Medicine and first-year science. Camp for Kids Club – jewel in the crown of University of Western Australia. Tennis. Memories of UWA. Orientation, Brian Stokes. Memories of Adelaide and Adelaide University. Meeting Sir Cedric Stanton-Hicks*. Doctor Lippay*. Prof Peter Kampf*. Dr Lippay story. Leben Prize* and Nobel Prize.
00:20:25 Memories of Adelaide and the Colombo Plan. Medical School starts at University of Western Australia. The Medical School – long gestation and appeal. Public subscription. Wonderful age for the students and teachers. Eric Saint brings back ideas from Cleveland. Co-mingle day.
00:25:35 Co-mingle king and Walter Murdoch. Lions of the Worth’s Circus. Tania Verstak was Miss World. Devoting life to children of spasticity. Percy Cerruty comes to the University.
00:29:30 Keeping good relationships with teacher. Ken Pawsey and Dick Lefroy were role models. Whipple’s disease* and malabsorption. Invited to the inner sanctum. Not a very good student.
00:34:05 A place to inspire the individuals. Being editor of the Reflex magazine. Mengele was to get PhD and the NAZI doctors. The Speculum. Little Red Riding Hood. And rock around the cock. The Stone Age contraceptive. Burning of the reflex. Issue number 4 of the Pelican also burned. Geoffrey Bolton*.
00:39:18 Professor Ten Seldam is a nice bully. Eric Saint and Neville Stanley invite me for a beer. Memories of Saint and Stanley. Wittenoom mine. Dick Lefroy. Getting to know the surgeons. Mother gets cancer and medical etiquette. Not charging students.
00:44:19 Eric Saint and graduation ceremony. Paediatricians were excellent. McDonald* and Lewis. Neville Stanley was ebullient and enthusiastic. Staff student sporting things. Schistosomiasis in the Ord River. Way ahead of Salk* and Polio. Memories of Harry Rees*. Memories of Gordon King. Had hypothyroid condition. Never get a class with only 15 people in it again.

Interview 2
00:00:00 Eric Saint and the colours of the gown for the university. Aboriginal health and the Medical School. General Practice and rural health and going to Collie in 1959. Eric Saint is the visionary person. Medical school appeal and rural medicine. Setting up a Country Medical Foundation. Country people hold Medical School in bad odour in the 1970s.
00:05:40 Translation of the vision of the School to professors. Aboriginal concerns of no concern. Working with refugees and being aware of minorities. Support of influential people in the UK. Psychologist for Bourke* in NSW. Seeing sick Indigenous children. Going into private practice. Being a doctor for Aborigines. Changing things.
00:11:00 Documenting illness. Importance of writing papers. Getting houses for people. ABSCHOL Aboriginal scholarships. Housing co-op through loss of money. Speaking to Mr Whitlam. Fred Hollows and trachoma. Dame Ida Mann, St John of Jerusalem Eye Hospital. John Cawte and Leslie Kiloh*.
00:16:00 Fred Hollows insults people. People warm to Hollows. Setting up the Aboriginal Medical Service in Perth. Admission of Aboriginal students to Medical School. Pathfinder.
00:19:00 Encouragement of Saint and rural service. Influence of Harry Rees. Working in fourth-world conditions in Australia. Australia is a very racist country. Money disappears. Kununurra an Apartheid town. Argyle mine and places in the town. 1996 opposition to core curriculum for Aboriginal study.
00:23:50 Coming back to the University - Foundation Professor Dick Joske*. Reasons for patient being in hospital. Easy to teach. Being bored with hospital medicine.
00:28:50 Karmel Enquiry 1973. Time is ripe to set up community practice. General practice and the Whitlam government. Health centre medicine. Nicola Roxon and centres. Committee of twelve and ideas for the health centres. Kevin Cullen and Busselton survey. College of GPs was a little club.
00:33:15 A compromise candidate was given the position. First guinea pig. Passing the exam. Offered the Chair. Kevin goes berserk and goes to the press. Changes to the school. Traditional English medical school. Easier to win a war than make change to the curriculum. Reasons for Saint leaving.
00:37:45 Promise to Western Australian population had been forgotten. Medical school and its purpose. People don’t have a big picture, major opponents now claim stewardship. A dissident and being valued for seeing things differently.
00:40:15 Aboriginal students and rural students would not get into Medicine at UWA. Figures disputed. Professor Sandra Eades* nurtured by Fiona Stanley. The connection between staff and student is still close. Bogged down in bureaucracy.
00:45:25 Vision of a career. Academic community and the 1970s. Controversy and closing of ranks. Whelan and Jackson and the Cullen family. Plot of the university to get their own man. Suing the Cullens and the College of GPs. Unit of the Department of Medicine. The last group of Community Practice to be formed in Western Australia. Money is redirected.
00:50:43 Boyle refuses to see Kamien. Embezzlers of $550,000 go to gaol. Getting some money and some employees. David Treloar*. Medicine takes all the money. Faculty opposes move to Claremont. Michael McCall* Associate Prof of Medicine changes his mind. Reduction of money. Tough go.

Interview 3
00:00:00 Naive not getting a place in the system till 1985, in curriculum review committee. Stalling of process. Back to square one. Rural general practice rated highly. Financial difficulties in WA. Something wrong with an organisation that goes to all the effort to appoint somebody and then makes it so difficult for them... the gang of four. Dean, Deputy Dean, Michael McCall and Head of Department of Medicine. Finance for General Practice. Writing to Bob Street . Faculty cuts. Max Walters. No cuts. University fripperies of English, Anthropology, Archaeology, General Practice.
00:04:41Apology of Bob Street. Things are going to change. Conditions of the architect. Thanking Vice Chancellor. Universities can be very bloody places indeed. Robert Smith. Did not want Claremont for general practice. University dealings with Claremont. Deprived suburb of Lockridge. Setting up a practice without money from the University
00:09:45 Buying house and setting up a practice. Holman a person that makes dreams come true. Nugget Coombs. Dr. Underwood. Self-funding in two weeks. Going bankrupt. Losing department in Fremantle Hospital. Payroll tax.
00:12:22 Becoming bankrupt. $130,000 and fines of $6000 Steven Schwartz* and the faculty of medicine. Robert Smith impressed with Lockridge. Money and department allocation.
00:14:20 Memories of being a minority discipline in UWA. Kamien’s appointment was controversial. Suffering from the onslaught of Royal Australian College of General Practice. Curriculum review. No plan B. Trying to get a place in the medical curriculum. Getting into the curriculum by 1982. Catchpole had a three-week stint of emergency medicine. Used for rural attachments. Professor Catchpole gives up time for another discipline.
00:17:40 Trying desperately hard. The Deans were not interested. Lockridge’s situation. Setting up a demonstration practice. No support from the Faculty of Medicine. University forward-looking principle. Richard Angeloni*. Starting with interest free money. Lockridge practice brought prestige to the University. Max Walters completely antagonistic.
00:20:10 Bureaucracy tries to postpone things. Money worries for the Festival of Perth and Colleges. Ulterior worry. Time-wasting affair. Support of Norman Palmer and Dick Joske*. Joske became a rural convert. Memories of the games played by the Deans. People don’t know the University system. Ian Passmore made it easier.
00:24:15 40% of time spent fighting battles. Strengths of teaching affected. Professor Lourens* was a time-waster. University politics. Fighting for salaries. Not approved by Carmen Lawrence - working hospital. Pay the same as a junior senior lecturer. Professor getting higher pay than Head of School.
00:29:00 Senate and the blue rinse set. Selling of the Claremont practice. Loss of money of the University. General Practice and a Clinical Department. Describing Fred Hollows. University seeing benefit if it was seen to be earning money.
00:32:30 University would not change in any sense unless they were earning money. University never turns down money. Regrets about not making a life at University of Western Australia. Complaints about University system.
00:35:10 Position of Professor is devalued. Clinical medicine and the mates of the Dean. Not getting on the committee. Staying as an Adjunct Professor. Winthrop Professors and the American scheme.
00:38:40 Awarded for community work. Work in Kununurra*. Medical services for poor and others. Aboriginal health was seen to lower the tone. Huge numbers of students can’t be coped with. Notre Dame. Personal teaching in rural areas and teaching hospital.
00:42:40 Paying for conferences out of own pocket. Getting awards. Citizen of the Year. Order of Australia. The ‘in crowd’ of UWA and CURTIN. Getting reasonable recognition. Motivations. Revolving door of Aboriginal health. Treating overseas doctors.
00:47:30 International standing of the Department of Medicine. Medical graduates from OS. Getting money from OS students dilutes and quality. Money-making business. Lack of government support. Spin business and ratings. Personal position of professor. Benefits.
00:50:29 Memories of being ship’s doctor and Antarctic expeditions. Age is not a problem. An adventure and interest in scurvy in Kalgoorlie. The Barcoo Rot from the Barcoo River. Country and University judged by the way it treats its minorities. Summing up grateful to University of Western Australia.



Kamien, Max, “Max Kamien interview, 2 October 2012,” UWA Historical Society: UWA Histories, accessed July 13, 2024,