First Nations students inspired to pursue career in healthcare

Published 5:00am 24 July 2023

First Nations students inspired to pursue career in healthcare
Words by Ashleigh Howarth
Above: Mater physiotherapist Felicity Prebble with Pathways Our Way Academy School-Based Trainees Cienna Fuller-Chapman and Laylarni Fraser.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from Bray Park State School were among a lucky few who were able to experience a day in the life of a physiotherapist thanks to a new pilot program at Mater Hospital Brisbane.

The school-based trainees from the Institute for Urban Indigenous Health, Pathways Our Way Academy (POWA) were part of The High School Health Adventure program for First Nations students, run by Mater Education, in conjunction with Mater Physiotherapy.

The enthusiastic cohort learned, which also included students from schools across Ipswich, Logan, Gold Coast and Bayside regions, learned how to strap an ankle injury, assist with movement and baby handling techniques and took part in simulation physiotherapy sessions in a make-shift Intensive Care Unit.

The program was facilitated by Mater physiotherapist Felicity Prebble to encourage more First Nations children to take up the profession.

According to the Australian Physiotherapy Association, only 0.7 per cent of physiotherapists are recognised as a First Nations person.

“Increasing the representation of this population in healthcare is vital to ensure we are delivering considered and specific healthcare,” Felicity says.

“Research has shown that increasing the involvement of First Nations people within healthcare delivers positive outcomes, helping to close the gap and leading to increased cultural awareness, understanding and exposure.

“Eligible students were either completing their Cert III in Allied Health Assistance, interested in working in healthcare or physiotherapy or highly involved in sport and physiotherapy – and felt the program could be a potential future pathway of interest.”

Director of Mater Physiotherapy Michelle Grant says, “the program is a great way for students to experience first-hand what working in the healthcare field may look like”.

The one-day pilot program was offered to 10 students and the next program, to be held in October, will be made available to more.

First Nations students inspired to pursue career in healthcare
Above: The High School Health Adventure program for First Nations students is run by Mater Education in conjunction with Mater Physiotherapy and IUIHs Pathways Our Way Academy. 

About the program

Mater Foundation provided $10,000 to fund the program for First Nations high school students.

Mater Reconciliation Action Plan Manager Jo Jones says it was important to provide opportunities to First Nations students to learn and understand the day-to-day role of a physiotherapist and to explore possible career pathways.

Jo says Mater’s Reconciliation Action Plan aims to create culturally immersed environments which nurture the career aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

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