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Young Aboriginal Health Workers make a big impact

June 07, 2024

Michael and Josiah are two Aboriginal Health Workers with their vision set on influencing better health outcomes for their Mob.

Two years ago, the close friends successfully applied for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Study Grants from Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN to support their studies in Cert IV in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care. The pair graduated shortly after, but this was just the beginning of their journey. Both men are now working as Aboriginal Health Workers and are planning to undertake their Masters of Public Health early next year.

“Reflecting on the journey, I have to say the study grants were an important bridge from education to employment. It was the mental support of knowing we had the backing to take the next step,” said Michael.

After completing their Cert IV qualifications, they drove together from Toowoomba to Cairns to complete the extended Cert IV Practice qualification which allowed them to become AHPRA-registered Indigenous Health Practitioners. With this qualification, they worked across South East Queensland, gaining experience in Logan, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.

Michael and Josiah then took the next step in their education by enrolling in the University of Sydney, where they are now finalising a Graduate Diploma in Indigenous Health Promotion. The university also offered both Michael and Josiah the opportunity to tutor future postgraduate students in their studies, based on their outstanding academic results.

In July 2023, Michael and Josiah accepted roles at the Inala Southern Queensland Centre of Excellence, where they are continuing their clinical skill development and pursuing individual areas of interest.

“The role is essentially three parts - clinical, community development and health promotion. I love all parts of my work,” said Michael.

Josiah has discovered a passion for diabetes education after sitting in on an appointment and experiencing the culturally safe environment he could provide for clients coming in for diabetes care and education.

“Being an Aboriginal man, I could feel that the client felt comfortable and related to me,” said Josiah.

“At one point, a client even turned to me and asked me what I thought, even though I was just sitting in.”

Josiah is pursuing this interest by completing a Graduate Certificate of Diabetes Education at James Cook University, in addition to his Graduate Diploma in Health Promotion.

In September 2023 the men jointly facilitated a Men’s Group through their workplace, resulting in local men of all ages attending to discuss their health and wellbeing.

“In the beginning we only had three men attend, but we adapted our approach to create a more relaxed structure and a few weeks later we had 21 men in the room,” said Michael.

Michael and Josiah are preparing for the next step in their professional education. Through the Graduate Diploma of Indigenous Health Promotion pathways, both men are now eligible for full scholarship enrolment Master of Public Health or Health Policy starting in 2025.

“The more we know, the more we can do to influence the system,” said Michael.

“I’d love to bring together the skills of Aboriginal Health Workers and use them more strategically towards Closing the Gap actions around community development, health promotion and cultural safety.”

Michael and Josiah are big advocates for a career in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health.

“It’s a very rewarding career. It can really take you places, from North Queensland to the South Burnett to Brisbane, I’ve enjoyed it all so far,” said Josiah.

“We would tell any young person to take the leap. We want to connect with young people, even still in high school so they know about the opportunities to work in health,” said Michael.

Darling Downs and West Moreton PHN is continuing to support the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce with another round of Study Grants released earlier this year.

Image description: Josiah (left) and Michael (right) proudly stand outside their current workplace.