Indigenous graduates pave the way

13 May 2011

This year's graduates come from a variety of healthcare backgrounds and regions across Australia.
This year's graduates come from a variety of healthcare backgrounds and regions across Australia.

A group of Indigenous health workers from across Australia flew to Sydney to accept their Graduate Diplomas in Indigenous Health Promotion on Friday 13 May.

The Graduate Diploma in Indigenous Health Promotion is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers who currently have a role in promoting health issues to their communities.

This year's graduates have come from a variety of healthcare backgrounds and regions including the Northern Territory, New South Wales and Queensland.

The program aims to improve Indigenous health at a community level, says University of Sydney Indigenous lecturer, Michelle Dickson.

"This means identifying community needs and strengths, developing a plan of action, putting it into practice and evaluating the plan to identify the extent to which positive changes have and can occur," says Dickson.

The course requires students to return to their communities and workplaces to complete a self-directed project.

Graduate David Parffit, now employed as Remote Tobacco Coordinator in the Alcohol and Other Drugs Program for the Northern Territory Department of Health, says the course gave him a new focus.

"I was working in alcohol and other drugs in the territory but during my studies, I branched out into tobacco, working in the Kakadu region which included Jabiru and its many out stations," says Parfitt.

"I worked with the Kakadu Health Services to find their priority health issue and tobacco was identified as their number one area of key concern.

"Initially, I gathered basic information on developing a community profile; housing, health, education, employment and tobacco use.

"I then initiated and worked with Kakadu Health staff out there to start up a program, the '100 Quit Club' is what we came up with together. We are aiming to get 100 smokers in the Binninj (Indigenous) population to stop or at least attempt to quit over the period of the program.

"Once we run the program in Kakadu it is then going to be rolled out across the Northern Territory, targeted at the 20 growth towns."

Fellow graduate, Geoffrey (Jacko) Angeles, Aboriginal Male Health Co-ordinator for the Top End says the course interested him because most of his experience in health related to medical and bio-medical research.

"Professionally I had been in a buffer zone between medical research and practice for various agencies. I wanted to better understand what I was doing as a researcher and the information I was helping to sent out," says Angeles.

Angeles developed a scabies awareness program as part of his studies, but now his career has taken another turn.

"After graduating I am returning to the top end to start a program with indigenous communities in the north-east Arnhem Land region.

"I want to help bring back some of the traditional practises that once generated a community connectedness within Aboriginal communities.

"My work will involve re-visiting in the traditional use of fish traps and cooking methods.

"I ultimately believe that bringing back this connectedness and traditional activities will have a positive effect on the health and wellbeing of the people of this region."

The Sydney Medical School at the University of Sydney offers the Graduate Diploma in Indigenous Health Promotion, which was developed in consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals and is based on national and international best practice in Indigenous health promotion.

Interview contact: Michelle Dickson, 9351 1974,

Media enquiries: Victoria Hollick, 0401 711 361, 9351 2579,