Born and raised in Sendamangalam, a town in Namakkal district, Dr Ramamoorthi who had settled in Australia 13 years ago is one of those Indians who had made the country proud. Having received the 2015 Pride of Australia ‘Inspiration Medal’ for his contribution to education in the Northern Territory (NT), the senior lecturer from Charles Darwin University says that he is happy and privileged to have been recognised.
“Being the first Tamilian from the Indian subcontinent to receive this award in the NT is a thrill and to get recognised for the work that I’ve done for nine years is gratifying,” he says.
Presently, a cancer researcher and educator for Australian aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, he says, “I got involved with the aboriginal community in 2010. Around 32% of the population is made up of this native race and that is high.”
Shedding more light on the aboriginal population, he says that they are an extremely deprived community who suffer from chronic and infectious diseases. “Alcohol, abuse, smoking and sexual violence are major problems and they have a short life span due to lack of access to to medical care and knowledge,” he explains.
Specifically involved in teaching them, he explains that reservation in medical programmes for people from indigenous communities are not as popular in Australia as it is in India. By giving opportunity to aboriginal students to study the programme, Dr Ramamoorthi along with his team have been attempting to enhance public health there.
“I am extensively involved in teaching and tutoring about pharmacological drugs, their mechanism, side effects and other topics in biochemistry and pharmacology,” says the clinical sciences professor. “Literacy rate is poor here when compared to other parts and they hesitate to mingle with the society. But it’s interesting that they feel comfortable with Indians.”
So what can he tell us about the whole experience? “It has been overwhelming and the way they learn with such enthusiasm is great! Research study has shown that there is a substantial gene flow between the Tamil and aboriginal population in Australia. I have noticed many similarities between the Tamils and the aboriginal people in Australia.”
Recollecting some words that he came across while interacting with the native population, he says, “Words such as nagaram (town), mangai (women), ange/enge (here/there) and mudhalai (crocodile) are some of the Tamil words they use widely in daily communication. “The pronunciation may vary but the meaning is the same,” he shares.
Dr Ramamoorthi has been involved in the Tamil society for five years. He says it is important to preserve our language and culture. “We have a Tamil school as a part of the NT Tamil association and also a Tamil library in Darwin.”
Ask him about his future plan and he says he would love to do research in the early diagnosis of cancer and creating awareness among socially backward people. “I also want to sensitise the Tamil people here on their treatment choices, improving survival and decreasing recurrence rate of diseases,” he adds.