Dr Maithri Goonetilleke

2012 Carey Medallist

Dr Maithri Goonetilleke
Dr Maithri Goonetilleke

Dr Maithri Goonetilleke MBBS, BMedSc, BSc (Biomedical) is awarded the 2012 Carey Medal. He entered Year 2 at Carey in 1987 and completed Year 12 in 1997.

What makes Maithri stand out? His strong commitment to serve the community and his sense of vocation.

During 2005–6 Maithri visited Swaziland in southern Africa at the suggestion of a friend. The beautiful town in which he landed was in a community dominated by HIV/AIDS.

Swaziland has one of the highest death rate from HIV/AIDS in the world and negative population growth — projected statistics from epidemiologists suggest that by 2030 there will be very few adults in the country if this trajectory continues. Swaziland also has one of the lowest life expectancy rates of any country, at 31 years; the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS; and the highest proportion of orphaned children under the age of 15 because so many parents die at a young age from HIV/AIDS.

Maithri had intended specialising in the field of infectious diseases but his concern for the Swazi people became such that he chose to devote time each year to improving their standard of living.

In 2005–6, Maithri met people from other nations who were working in Swaziland and he established Possible Dreams International (PDI), a not-for-profit organisation that partners with rural and remote communities to empower families and individuals living with extreme poverty, malnutrition and endemic disease. In 2009 PDI was formalised. The PDI team in Swaziland is working ‘on the ground’ every day and Maithri, as Executive Director, volunteers in a range of capacities for three months each year. Those who work with Maithri at PDI explain: ‘Maithri is the driving force behind PDI. He has a sense of enthusiasm and a sense of humour combined with a passion for work and an outcome for each person’.

PDI is a volunteer organisation with only a couple of paid Swazi staff. Even Maithri pays for his own flights to and from Swaziland. Since 2005, he has worked in Australia as the sole doctor in rural emergency departments; with indigenous communities; as a registrar in various hospitals; and, since the end of 2011, as the doctor at Fulham Correctional Centre, near Sale. This range of medical appointments has provided him with the professional flexibility and the experience necessary for his ongoing volunteer medical work in Swaziland.

Maithri’s philosophy is to encourage self-sufficiency. This has led to projects to provide communities with clean water, help people grow their own food, commence small businesses and make housing a reality for poor families. This emphasis on self-sufficiency is vital to the philosophy of PDI. It is not an organisation that ascribes to the idea of ‘international aid by handout’.

Members of PDI derive from diverse social, ethnic and religious backgrounds, and are spread throughout the world, united in their belief in the dignity of every human life.

Specifically, PDI provides assistance to the Swazi people by providing food, through the Mealie Meal project; constructing houses for destitute families; providing emergency medical care and transport for critically ill patients; providing bedding for families living in extreme poverty and/or with disease; providing comfort packs for the terminally ill; providing clean water for 3000 people in the rural community of Membane; and helping families raise animals, so they can begin a business and generate an income.

When Maithri is in Australia and not working at Fulham, his time is spent fundraising, promoting his international supporter base, developing strategy, speaking to various groups such as schools, churches, community organisations and skyping​ with the PDI team. He has also written a book, 'Letters from a Young Doctor: Stories of hope from Swaziland', which was published in February 2013 by Ilura Press.

At the 1997 Speech Night, the inaugural Carey Medal was presented to Prof. Graeme Clark, who played a key role in the invention of the Bionic Ear. In that same year, Maithri was presented with the VCE Prize for French and The Singing Prize. Many in the Carey community will remember Maithri for his magnificent singing. Now, through PDI, he also directs a choir of young people from Swaziland which toured Australia in March 2013. They performed in various locations, including the Carey 90-year anniversary celebrations, during their tour.

Maithri is an outstanding person — humble, giving, supportive, family orientated, passionate about medicine and passionate about giving back to the community — and a worthy recipient of the 2012 Carey Medal. Further information about Possible Dreams International can be found at:

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