Indigenous Health Scholarship
University of Sydney, NSW
Bachelor of Applied Science (Physiotherapy)
Scholarship Awarded 2020
Rotary Club of Burnie
How will I contribute to improving Indigenous health as a qualified medical practitioner or health worker?
I am a proud Palawan Aboriginal woman from Lutruwita. I am in my third year of physiotherapy, commencing my final year. Physiotherapy has always been an interest of mine as I want to give back to my community and increase the health and quality of life of all Indigenous people. I have been fortunate for the opportunity to become enriched with knowledge and I want to share this among my people.
Throughout my degree, I have had many opportunities to connect with my culture and speak on behalf of Aboriginal people and I want to continue to do so after I have graduated. I have been a mentor for Indigenous students studying a career in allied health and I have sat on the Aboriginal Student Committee Board speaking on behalf of my peers. My goal is to continue to mentor and guide Indigenous students once I am qualified. I can resonate with how challenging studying a degree in health is, as well as being a minority and moving from a remote area into a city. I believe these challenges contribute to the currently low statistic of Aboriginal people working within the health sector and I want to work hard to Close the Gap.
Physiotherapy has helped me connect deeper with my culture and has reinforced my passion fro improving Aboriginal health care. As an Aboriginal women, I am aware of how important it is that we are self-sufficient, connected to our land and being on country surrounded by our mob. I want this to be a reality for all Indigenous people wishing to remain on country. My passion is Aboriginal health and my goal is to establish physiotherapy community centres in regional and remote areas of Australia. Health care delivery would be different in that services would be walk in rather by appointment as I understand the importance of being surrounded by family and healing on country. I would also encourage traditional medical treatment such as bush medicines in combination with evidence-based intervention. I believe this will put Indigenous people at ease, rather than enforcing strict, westernised practice. I would also ensure that there are appropriate Aboriginal interpreters available.
As part of my degree I will be travelling to Broome, WA for my final clinical placement. I will be located at the Majanlin Kimberley Centre, working among the Yawaru people of the Yawaru nation.
Current Progressive Report
I am a Palawa Aboriginal woman from Lutruwita (Tasmania). I grew up in a small community on the North West Coast. I am currently in my final year of Physiotherapy at the University of Sydney. In order to study physiotherapy, I had to relocate from Tasmania, away from friends, family and mob and move to Sydney. I am part of the Yooroang Garang Indigenous group at the University of Sydney and have met brothers and sisters who also have relocated from regional and rural communities and interested in allied health care. Outside of university, I enjoy yoga, yarning, reading and bush walking.
This semester has been a challenging but rewarding one. I have been working with a University of Sydney partner, The Physiotherapy Clinic to develop a screening tool to be distributed to major sporting organisations that will identify female athletes at risk or experiencing urinary incontinence in their athletic career. Throughout this project myself and other students conducted a literature review outlining the prevalence and burden of urinary incontinence in this population. In addition, I was involved in a project for a public health subject designing an initiative aimed at university students and how they can remain active before, during and after university. I also completed my final musculoskeletal subject involving advanced practises such as spinal manipulative therapy. Unfortunately, my clinical placement that was meant to be at Liverpool Hospital in the Brain Injury Unit was cancelled due to Covid-19 – however as of now, our cohort are still on track to finish this year (fingers crossed!!).
My passion and drive to become a qualified physiotherapist is influenced by my mother who is a specialised breast cancer nurse at the North West Regional Hospital in Tasmania. I strive to be the genuine, caring and empathetic health professional my mum is. She is a holistic health care professional incorporating usual medical care as well as complimentary therapy. She works with people during the most vulnerable times in their lives and guides them through it – I want to be able to offer this same support.
I am invested in Indigenous health care, and hope to work regionally and remotely in small communities delivering appropriate and culturally sensitive care. In particular, I am interested in cardiopulmonary physiotherapy as conditions such as heart and lung disease is highly prevalent in the Indigenous population. I also have an interest in women’s health and increasing quality of life for women post pregnancy. I want to work with community members, to understand appropriate treatment and therapy options that also consider traditional and cultural medical practises.
After completing my final year of physiotherapy, I hope to apply for an allocation position in a public hospital. This will give me an insight into a wide range of physiotherapy specialties. Allocation is a one year position in a hospital, working as a rotating physiotherapist and also work with regional hospital partners. If I am successful in gaining an allocation position, I hope to work for several years in a public hospital gaining experience and confidence and then hope to take this knowledge to remote communities of Australia. This passion for regional and remote health care, I believe, is derived from living in a rural community and understanding the need for increased delivery and access of allied health care. I also look up to my Auntie, who is a community liaison officer in Barunga, Northern Territory. I see the difference and impact she has on the community members, and I want to be able to provide this same support.
Despite my passion for physiotherapy and the goals I strive towards, I struggled enormously with relocating to Sydney and continue to feel home sick at times. I moved to Sydney by myself and moved into University housing which was quite isolating. Being a part of an Aboriginal university group, meeting other Aboriginal brothers and sisters; yarning with mentors and becoming a mentor for other students; sitting on Indigenous panels and discussions; and travelling home to mob often all helped me persevere through the struggles and how I managed to make it to my final semester of physiotherapy. I aim to continue to offer mentorship and tutoring after graduating as I know as an early student this was paramount for me. I am excited and ready to start practising as a physiotherapist and working towards my goals.