A few months before his alleged murder, much-loved paediatrician Michael Yung was celebrating a milestone very close to his heart; awarding the first Indigenous medical scholarship in honour of his late wife.

Key points:

  • Dr Michael Yung died in hospital on Tuesday
  • He had been found a day earlier by emergency services with serious injuries at his Gilberton home
  • The charity he established in honour of his late wife will continue the work he started

It was the culmination of hard work and dedication, fuelled by love, and a passion he had shared with his wife for health equity and social justice.

Dr Yung died in hospital on Tuesday, a day after he was found by emergency services with serious injuries inside his Gilberton home.

As the grief from his own death continues to ripple through the community, those who helped him establish the Kathryn Browne-Yung Scholarship Fund are determined to continue his legacy.

The foundation, which aims to “put Indigenous health in Indigenous hands”, was established in the wake of Dr Browne-Yung’s sudden death in 2020 from an unexpected medical issue.

After Dr Kathryn Browne-Yung died, her husband established a foundation in her honour.(Supplied: Flinders University)

Its purpose is to award scholarships to first-year Aboriginal medical students to help them focus on their studies.

Board member and close friend of the couple, Flinders University Associate Professor Tamara Mackean, said giving was “very much at the core” of who the pair were. 

“Michael said to me not that long ago actually, and he’d said it to me before, that Kathryn was the love of his life and I think for her, he was hers,” she said.

“They were bonded together with respect, with deep love.

“They built a life based on their principles; their passion about social justice, equity, making the world a better place.”

Tamara Mackean fondly remembered the couple’s love of AFL and the Hawthorn Football Club.(Flinders University)

Associate Professor Mackean said she shared an office with Dr Browne-Yung where they bonded over shared passions, including the AFL.

“Michael and Kathryn barracked for Hawthorn which was ok by me, and I barrack for West Coast Eagles which was ok by them,” she said.

“… On a Monday morning we would have our morning cup of tea, or coffee for Kathryn, and we’d have a natter about the games on the weekend and lament or celebrate … she absolutely loved the game, we all did.”

Associate Professor Mackean said Dr Yung worked tirelessly after his wife’s death to achieve a lasting legacy for her in the form of the scholarship fund.

“Michael had put a lot of energy into making what they had talked about —  their hopes and dreams in doing something substantive, he actually was able to put that in action,” she said.

Associate Professor Mackean placed flowers for Dr Yung at his late wife’s memorial tree on Tuesday.(Supplied: Tamara Mackean)

Associate Professor Mackean said Dr Yung put his own money into the fund to give it “a really significant kickstart”, and also held fundraisers.

In lieu of flowers, mourners have been asked to donate to the fund in memory of Dr Yung in what Associate Professor Mackean described as a “fitting tribute to Michael”.

“People that know Michael, and the people that have only heard about Michael, would all see and understand what an amazing individual he is,” she said.

“To honour that by helping build his legacy, a real contribution to maintaining his and Kathryn’s legacy, it’s something tangible people can do.

“And sometimes that’s a really good thing to help us move through the grieving process.”

Tributes have poured in for Dr Yung, a highly regarded paediatrician. (Supplied: SA Police)

‘Thank you for all the tiny lives you saved’

Dr Yung was the former head of the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital and his family said he also set up a similar unit in Kilifi, Kenya, and worked in remote Indigenous communities.

Across social media, tributes have poured in from Dr Yung’s colleagues who described him as kind, compassionate and intelligent. 

“Such a gifted surgeon and doctor … I will never forget his friendship and watching him saving so many babies and children,” one wrote.

“Such a beautiful soul and wonderful person.”

Another described Dr Yung as an “exceptional clinician” who was “kind and compassionate” and would be “dearly missed”.

Dr Yung was the former head of the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Parents also left heartfelt messages of thanks to the doctor who saved their children’s lives.

“My son is only 10 months old and he still managed to put a smile on his face, despite being sick. We will forever be grateful,” one parent wrote.

“Dr Yung was part of the team that saved our toddler’s life in 2003,” another wrote.

“We have fond memories of him and are forever indebted to him.”

One mother recalled how Dr Yung saved her newborn daughter’s life.

“You were and always will be admired and remembered by so many,” she wrote.

“Thank you for all the tiny lives you saved, touched and made better and the ever-reaching effect that had on the families and community,” another wrote.

Dr Yung’s family released a statement earlier in the week, paying tribute to a man who “dedicated his life to the care and treatment of critically ill children and their families at their most vulnerable time”.

“He was a loving and loved father, son, brother, uncle and cousin. His death has left a hole in our hearts that will never be filled,” his family said.

SA Health said the Women’s and Children’s Health Network had been “deeply impacted by the loss of Dr Yung”.

It said staff members have signed condolence books which will be shared with Dr Yung’s family.