During my semester break in June 2019, I did an Aurora internship as part of the Aurora Internship Program at the First Peoples Health Unit (FPHU) at Griffith University Gold Coast. FPHU is a research unit which focuses on research and providing support for First Peoples students undertaken health programs at Griffith University. It was a very valuable experience in which I had the opportunity to learn about Indigenous health and education directly from a group of passionate people at FPHU.
Prior to arriving at the FPHU office, I was required to take the compulsory First Peoples Health Initiative E-Learning, a one-hour online course for beginners to understand further about Indigenous First Peoples Health (available at FPHU website). The course presents historical and cultural information of Indigenous communities in Australia and its implication in the delivery of culturally safe healthcare programs. This was something that I had very limited knowledge of previously, thus I found the online course to be very useful.
For my main task, I was trusted to draft a plan for a targeted mentoring program for First Peoples health students at Griffith University. It was a big and daunting task, but I was glad to be given the opportunity and FPHU staff were very supportive. My work mainly involved reviewing survey data, literatures, government documents, and university reports with focus on Indigenous students’ participation and experiences in tertiary education. I compiled data on the enrolment, retention, and completion of Indigenous students, and used them to develop programs to improve the persisting academic and career development challenges. I also summarized Australian governments and universities’ strategies on improving Indigenous students’ performance. Furthermore, I also examined existing mentoring programs and their positive impacts in order to set realistic goals, targets, and strategies, and to evaluate if any of the program models can adopted by FPHU.
I was also very glad that my internship period coincided with the NAIDOC Week 2019 celebration. FPHU participated at the NAIDOC events at Griffith University and Gold Coast University Hospital where I had exciting experience interacting with visitors and introduced FPHU works. I also visited NAIDOC celebration organized by a community in Mudgeeraba, 20-minute drive from Griffith University. Involvement in the NAIDOC week events gave me opportunity to learn more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people, culture, and language. FPHU also arranged a heritage walk in Burleigh Head National guided by Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre, where I got to learned about the history of Gold Coast's Aboriginal community.
I am particularly grateful for the opportunity to engage in many interesting conversations about Indigenous history, culture, language, and also social issues. Most of the time, the discussions happened casually. I am happy that people at FPHU, who mostly are Indigenous, provided me with a safe space to ask questions, confirm misconceptions, and challenge stereotypes. As an international student from Indonesia, the information I gained during my internship was very valuable. In certain aspects, I could relate and reflect on the diversity, cultural importance, and also challenges faced by the Indigenous communities here with situations faced by many communities in my home country as well. I learned how to utilize data and research to inform the development of targeted programs. I hope to bring back the knowledge that I have gained during my four weeks at FPHU. Doing the internship together with another fellow Aurora intern, Lia, also gave me a chance to learn more about Australia. Originally coming from different countries and now living in two different cities within Australia, we got to exchange stories and experience. We worked closely on our tasks at FPHU and had many productive discussions around social work and public health. This internship has also allowed me to connect with people who are passionate about work in Indigenous sector.
FPHU is also located at the Griffith University Gold Coast, close to many beautiful beaches and they are easy to reach by using the public transports. Thus, it was a bonus to travel around and explore the many beautiful places in southern Queensland. No doubt, I enjoyed my stay in the sunny Gold Coast (yes, it’s pretty warm during the winter too!).
I thank Aurora for the opportunity to do an internship in Indigenous sector, and for FPHU for the being a great host and for the wonderful experience!