North Queensland Indigenous students unite on healthcare

From learning how to perform CPR to removing surgical staples, North Queensland Indigenous students have been given a glimpse of the healthcare opportunities available at Mater Private Hospital Townsville.

The action-packed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Career Pathway Days are aimed at students in the region’s high schools – and encourage them to pursue a health career.

Last Monday students at Thuringowa State High School, and St Margaret Mary’s College were informed about Mater pathways to nursing and other opportunities in healthcare.

In partnership with Seed Foundation Engagement Officer De’arne French, Mater Private Hospital Townsville has educated students about the healthcare needs of First Nations people while showcasing its Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Traineeship program.

The new program showcases school-based traineeships which provide students with entry-level pathways into a career in the health industry. Some of these pathway programs include Diploma of Nursing and VETiS (Vocational Education Training in Schools), available through Mater Education.

The Seed Foundation aims to grow the potential of Australia’s First Nations peoples by inspiring and promoting self-determination through education, health, and employment.

Mater Townsville Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Liaison Officer Beth Hickson said the Career Pathway Days connected school communities and provided students with health career pathways they may not have otherwise known about. 

“We are providing youth here in our community, and those in remote areas, with ways to gain employment within the healthcare workforce,” Ms Hickson said.

“Providing a study health pathway for the younger generation is important.”

She said Career Pathway Days had previously been held in conjunction with William Ross State High School, Bwgcolman Community School, Proserpine State High School and Kirwan State High School, where students had shown a keen interest in studying nursing and working within their regional communities.

Meanwhile, at the recent 2022 Queensland Training Awards, Ms Hickson said Thuringowa State High School student Caleb Baker won the School-Based Apprentice or Trainee of the Year category.

She said while working at Mater Private Hospital Townsville as an Indigenous trainee, Caleb was completing his Certificate III in Health Services Assistance.

“I chose the health industry because of my interest in the sciences but also due to my Indigenous heritage,” Caleb said.

“As a young Aboriginal man, I value providing more Indigenous representation in the industry and gaining a clearer understanding of how to ‘Close the Gap’ regarding health, wellbeing, education, employment and what I personally will be able to do to achieve that goal.”

Mater Private Hospital Townsville Executive Officer Libbie Linley and Mission Director Joseph McCarthy recently joined Ms Hickson on a visit to Bwgcolman Community School in Palm Island, meeting with students and the school’s health and physical education teacher, Senior Teacher Matt Foster.

Ms Linley said the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Career Pathway Days were beneficial to North Queensland students, especially to those who had never considered a career in health.

“At a time when healthcare is so high-profile, it has been great to see the students wanting to turn a dream into a reality,” she said.

The next event will be held on 25 July (today) with students from Pimlico State High School, St Teresa’s College Abergowrie, and St Patrick’s College.

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