My journey to helping my people with health-related issues started in 2014. I had experienced some personal hardships, and decided I needed to get away. My journey took me to Port Hedland, Western Australia, where I was successful in obtaining a job as an environmental health officer. The role required me to travel throughout 13 remote Aboriginal communities in the Pilbara.
This opportunity allowed me to witness remoteness in all its glory and difficulties first hand, which equally filled my soul with joy, and broke my heart. Experiencing strong culture helped my spirit to heal, but seeing the poor living conditions, limited access to health care and other social challenges my people were faced with, I knew I had to do something to make a change. This experience steered me towards becoming a Social Worker, undertaking a career in allied health. I am currently working on Groote Eylandt, a remote island in the gulf of Carpentaria where I am the sole social worker, servicing a population of over 3000 people, across large geographical distances.
I have come to view health with a holistic lens, and strongly believe that without our basic needs being met (housing, access to food, safety etc.,), we cannot truly devote our energy to prioritising our physical or mental health while we are living in a constant state of survival. How can we expect a client to manage their diabetes, when they do not have a hone or fridge to store their insulin? How can you ask a mother to remember to take her heart medication when she is living in a constant state of fear due to domestic violence? Applying a holistic lens when examining client needs, is something many health professionals fail to do when working in outdated medical models. This results in poorer health outcomes for Indigenous people, and completely preventable deaths. Australia is the only first world country on the globe that is still battling third world diseases, diseases such as leprosy and trachoma, which are only found in our Indigenous communities.
Working remote often means that you are met with many challenges and barriers such as a lack of services, poor communication, exuberant costs and extensive wait lists to access basic services and specialist health care. It is these barriers that have inspired me to further my skill set, and obtain further qualifications as a psychologist. It is my aim to fill another vital role in our Indigenous communities, and assist in bridging the gap between needs and realistic health outcomes. By having a dual trained social worker and psychologist, communities will benefit greatly, as I will be able to not only assist with issue such as food insecurity, domestic violence and psychosocial issues, but I will also be able to provide vital mental health supports, diagnosis, reports and referrals for essential services like NDIS. Services that can sometimes take years to come to remote communities. I will always fight, advocate and hold services accountable for better health outcomes for my people.
I feel each year I study, I always seem to find myself saying “this was the hardest year yet”. But 2022 has truly been one of the most difficult periods in my life where I had to juggle the demands of studying a psychology degree, employment and significant personal stress.
This year I was faced with a number of health complications that was a very emotional time for me, the loss of a friend to suicide and the devastation of losing our home and all of our belongings, photos and keepsakes in the 2022 floods.
This scholarship really helped to place some financial security around me, and allowed me to be able to take a mental health day or sick day off work when needed to focus on my healing, without having to worry about how I was going to pay the bills or purchase essential university items such as text books. On top of everything this year, I was able to achieve a distinction and a credit for the two units I studied, and while it wasn’t as high of a mark as I was hoping, it still keeps me in the running for advancing in the field of psychology.
With the entirety of my heart, I say thank you for your help.