Mater closes the gap one scholarship at a time

17/Mar/2022     Education

Mater Education nursing scholarships are helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people work in regional and remote communities, while closing the gap in Queensland’s healthcare workforce.

Mater Education Student Services Team Leader Lauren Andrew said the Access and Equity Scholarships were supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to realise their dream of providing culturally-appropriate healthcare on country.

For Brisbane student Britney Lawton, 21, and a Gumbaynggir woman, a career in nursing is helping her reconnect with her community and providing the opportunity to give back to her mob.

“For many years I struggled connecting with my culture and identity due to not being seen as ‘black enough’ from society and the people around it,” Ms Lawton said.

“It’s a struggle I know a lot of Indigenous Australians face still to this day.

“Learning about my culture has really inspired me. I have never felt more connected and am surrounded by amazing sistas who help me learn and grow.

“I hope to one day be able to help make a difference in rural communities.”

Mrs Andrew said the Access and Equity scholarships covered the costs of tuition, uniforms and textbooks, breaking down financial barriers to education and helping to Close the Gap in the healthcare workforce.

“One important way to help Close the Gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s health outcomes is by increasing the number of First Nations nurses and healthcare practitioners,” Mrs Andrew said.

“The Mater Education scholarships allow First Nations students to realise their dreams of delivering high-quality healthcare within their own communities.”

Townsville’s Amber Wiley, 16, decided to return to the classroom after choosing a different pathway to complete her education.

Ms Wiley said her mother, Kym, had inspired her to get more involved in their family’s Aboriginal community.

“I’ve always dreamed of a career in health,” the Bluewater resident said.

“I want to travel to rural and remote areas within Queensland and help out there. My dream is to become a nurse anaesthetist.”

Mrs Wiley, from the Kuku Yalanji mob, said she was incredibly proud of Amber for following her dream.

“She’s a very determined girl and nursing is something she’s always wanted to do,” she said.

Wiradjuri woman Jamie Maney realised her long-held dream in mid-2020 when she graduated as an enrolled nurse with Mater Education and began working as a practice nurse with the Orange Aboriginal Medical Service in New South Wales.

“In my late teens, my grandmother fell seriously ill and needed to stay in hospital for a couple of years,” she said.

“Spending time with her in hospital opened my eyes to the need for more nurses and healthcare workers who understood and were culturally sensitive to Aboriginal people.”

Ms Maney said studying was daunting at the start.

“Coming from my background, everything about the course, and the language of healthcare, was new,” she said.

“But I got a lot of support from the teachers and other students. They were really kind and encouraging and helped with tutoring on top of the regular classroom lessons.”

Mater Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Support Worker Beck Thomson said empowering young women to study after high school was an important way to Close the Gap.

“Racial discrimination towards First Nations people means many students don’t consider education after high school,” Ms Thomson said.

“The Mater Education scholarships provide an opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to get qualifications they can use in their own communities and help improve health outcomes.”


Images: (top) Britney Lawton and (bottom) Amber Wiley and her mother, Kym.

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