Indigenous Health Scholarship 2019

University of Wollongong, NSW
Bachelor of Nutrition Science
Scholarship Awarded 2018
Sponsored by:

Rotary Club of Corrimal

How will I contribute to improving Indigenous health as a qualified medical practitioner or health worker?

Indigenous health is an important and broad area with many challenges facing health workers and professionals. From my time working in Indigenous affairs for ten years I have seen first hand how difficult making effective change and advancements can be. I know there is not an easy answer to improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. What I do know is with the skills and knowledge I have gained through my work and studies I can make a purposeful contribution to improving these issues.

The answers to improving Indigenous health outcomes are different and change with communities. The answers are within these communities. I believe health workers and practitioners should primarily be there to facilitate discussions for outcomes and implement ideas or priorities that come from within community.

From my perspective, prevention is better than cure. With the rates of obesity and cardiovascular disease increasing through Indigenous communities and the general population it is clear intervention needs to be earlier and more successful.

As the mother of two small children I have seen first hand the importance of nutrition and setting solid eating habits from a young age. I am well aware of the challenges facing not only Indigenous parents, but parents in general, with regard to their children’s nutritional behaviours. Forming healthy relationships with food in children as early as possible is the focus of where my direction lies for my future career. Working in Aboriginal education for five years gave me a deep understanding of how important education is. Education gives Aboriginal people opportunities to find employment that can lead to a career where they can provide for their family. Employment and gaining knowledge and skills contributes to overcoming disadvantage, addressing trauma and better health outcomes. From my own experience of being privileged enough to gain a higher education it is clear to me that education and health go hand in hand. Early childhood education is paramount to continued success in school but if students are food insecure it would be remiss to expect high levels of concentration or an ability to thrive in that environment. Hence why I believe that real changes can be made through ensuring Indigenous children have the best possible start with their health, nutrition and education. Educating parents is an excellent place to start and through the Eat It To Beat It program with the Cancer Council I have been privy to experiencing a community based nutrition program. Whilst I complete my studies I will continue to volunteer my time to reaching parents of school aged children to assist in improving their nutritional habits. From there I hope to work with Aboriginal communities on the South Coast of NSW to empower parents and children to be confident in making nutritionally sound decisions and in turn attain better health outcomes.

Current Progressive Report

Academically, the second semester of 2018 was a bit disappointing. I found it difficult to keep up the high standard of work I was used to producing. I have heard from different people that the second year of a degree can be especially challenging and I absolutely felt that. I think it’s hard because it feels a bit like you are in ‘no-man’s-land’ within the degree. But I did get through the semester and even though I didn’t achieve at a high level, I still completed the subjects to the best of my ability at that time.

In saying that, personally the second half of last year was better for me. I did pull away from my studies a bit but that allowed me to focus on my health more and also spend more quality time with my family. Having young children and studying can be really rewarding but has obvious challenges as well. I chose to spend more weekends and nights with my family making memories instead of locked away in the study room. I am aiming this semester and year to find more of a balance between my studies and my family.

I am now coming to the end of the 3 month break and I am so ready, focused and excited to be heading into my third and final year of my undergrad! This semester I was able to choose an elective and next semester I can choose up to 3 electives. Being able to move away from the real science-y subjects of the degree and into more public health learnings is exactly where I want to be and I can’t wait to start the semester.

My son started school 2 weeks ago and that has been an emotional time for all of us. We have all started to finally settle into our new ‘normal’ and already have a good routine going. He has come home every day disappointed they haven’t given him any homework yet!! I told him to relax because once it starts it doesn’t stop! I also explained to him that when I start back at uni again I will have homework as well and that we can do ours together. We have set him up a desk next to mine in the spare room and I am looking forward to instilling a good work ethic in him from a young age. The fact that my children have been able to see me work so hard to get through uni leaves me feeling very blessed and grateful. The ARH scholarship not only allows me to educate myself and potentially better health outcomes for Aboriginal people and communities, but it also allows my two children to personally see their mum go to uni and show them that hopefully one day they can do it too.