Louise Edwards
Louise Edwards

Louise Edwards

Indigenous Health Scholarship

University of Sydney, NSW
Bachelor of Applied Science (Speech Pathology)
Scholarship Awarded 2018-2020
Sponsored by:

Rotary Club of Marrickville

Past Indigenous Health Scholarships Program

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

My mother, a faithful Christian and a Kamiloroi woman, always told me that she did not mind what I chose to do with my life so long as it honoured God and I did it to the best of my abilities, serving others and being an exemplar of good attitude and work ethic.   She taught me that my personal success does not rely on wealth, position or fame, but on character, reputation, dedication and the extent to which I am able to uplift others – what I give, not what I get.  I considered a variety of career paths, but found myself drawn to health science as I believed it to be an area in which I could succeed and be satisfied, and an area which depicted the heart of what my mother taught me.

The older and more aware that I grow, the more I grasp the severity of the plight of Indigenous people in regards to health care.   Unfortunately, statistics tell that from birth to death, an Indigenous person is far more liable to face and suffer a plethora of health issues than a non-Indigenous person.   I find these facts baffling and can not help but believe that this should not be so, and that something must be done about it.   Communication is a fundamental key to life, relationships, understanding, contributing and interacting is something that we take for granted.   It facilitates growth and discussion and enables us to take part in society and to live everyday life with ease.

There are currently less than 20 Indigenous speech pathologists in Australia.   I aspire to not only add to this number, but to add to the advocates and efforts dedicated to creating a new dynamic in Australia in which the current statistics do not ring true.   I have only completed one year of my degree, and am still unsure as to the practicalities and logistics of how I can truly contribute and make a change, but I do know of my current aim is to improve Indigenous health in Australia.

Current Progressive Report

Isn’t it crazy to think that this journey is almost over! I have only one semester left before I am an entry-level new graduate and qualified professional. This year has been interesting to say the least, full of surprises, chaos and the unknown.

Last semester started normally, then in the span of a few days, everything changed. We were told our school placement was cancelled and it was uncertain whether we would get the hours of experience needed to graduate. We had to change our clinic clients to telehealth and show competence in a new forum very quickly, while figuring out how to maintain client confidentiality and clinical administration. Protocol and expectations were constantly changing. Lectures were also put online with a very short turn around. All my assignments were reworked with short notice and many details were left up in the air. Independence and self-directed learning and adaptability were key. My supervisor for my 2 placements was obviously scared and stressed herself. She would sit in front of the news and send us Covid-19 updates and discuss potential issues that may threaten or change our placement, instead of marking our session plans and giving us the guidance and feedback we craved. She did not even watch many of our sessions over the semester and I felt a bit lost and unsure if I was passing or failing. I had to relay updates to my mentee and keep her calm, positive and supported, when I did not feel that way myself. My clients were also very non-committal with COVID-19 and transition to telehealth and missed sessions without notice and tried to negotiate finances with me. I had to try to advocate for therapy and keep the clients, so that my mentee and I could get our hours and wouldn’t have to start over with a new client hallway through semester. However, I was unsure if I would truly be able to deliver effective therapy over Zoom so this was uncomfortable.

All of my extracurricular activities were also cancelled or put online. I couldn’t visit my family, and even grocery shopping felt weird and stressful because there was nothing left on the shelves. My routine disappeared and I didn’t leave the house for 2-3 weeks straight while I was trying to figure everything out at the start of semester. I felt like university was taking up my whole life, because I would take so long to motivate myself in the mornings that I was left with work to do at night. There were no weekends. I couldn’t gauge whether I was doing too much or too little because I had no one else to measure by and no other activities to break it up, so I struggled to distinguish between work and life. I was almost constantly stressed and swapped between low depressive states and manic moods. I felt a bit crazy. I knew I needed to make some small changes and work towards establishing new routines for my physical and mental health. I started getting out of bed earlier, making a coffee and taking it for a quiet walk down the street, writing a list and then starting work at 9am. I scheduled in breaks when I would go out on the balcony or do a chore. I started skyping my family while I had a lunch break and forced myself to clock off at 5 and just eat, relax and spend quality time with my husband. I would still end up doing some uni work, but I worked to prioritise my life after hours and on weekends. I even did a social media challenge with a friend to wear a different themed outfit each day for 1 month. This meant that I had a creative task to do each day and I had to actually change out of my pyjamas!

I slowly settled into my new routine throughout the semester and began to appreciate that chance to simplify life and enjoy the new flat we moved into this year. I was still very stressed, but a bit more prepared for it when everything became chaotic again figuring out how to wrap up at the end of semester.

Overall, last semester was intense, stressful and sad, but trans-formative. We lost a few family friends, but a niece was born. I felt isolated, but I had a chance to rest and reevaluate my lifestyle and priorities and spend time with my husband. I struggled with work life balance, but I got all High-Distinctions! I was too hard on myself and thought I was failing placement and was not on par with my peers, but I learnt new truths about my character and personality, developed my identity and self- confidence. As a bonus, my supervisor was very happy with my progress and stored my “excellent professional report writing” as an exemplar for future students. It really was the worst, but the best semester. Frustrating, but rich with learning, experience, growth and unexpected blessing. When semester ended, David and I took a very much needed trip through the country in a camper van to visit my brother, frolic in the snow and forget about everything for a while.

I think I am still processing everything that has happened and is happening this year, so it has been difficult for me to report on, especially since semester 2 started back early for me and is already a roller-coaster. It has been helpful to reflect, and I am still learning to take things as they come and not be too mean to myself. I am so grateful for the support and input shown to me by networks like Rotary Health, particularly in times like these.

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