Lia Pledger Inguanti

Health Science
Health/Medical Services
Gold Coast
Winter 2019

I recently undertook an Aurora internship placement with the First Peoples Health Unit (FPHU) on the Gold Coast. FPHU’s work is varied and dynamic. Their projects span several focus areas, from student support to First Peoples health research, in order to successfully roll out the implementation Griffith Health’s First Peoples Health Plan.

The workplace culture at FPHU is cheery, open and supportive. The staff are endlessly encouraging and share their wealth of knowledge openly. Some of my biggest learnings came from lengthy chats in the office about co-workers’ experiences, opinions and aspirations. At FPHU I was able to better understand the strong interconnection between cultural inclusivity and student success, and gain insight into how one unit designs strategy to promote cultural capability University-wide.

I was really lucky to be placed at FPHU with another Aurora intern, Isabella. We were working on adjacent projects that would eventually be implemented together. It was incredibly helpful to have someone to share insights with throughout our heavy research periods at work, and we would often spend evenings together after work exploring the area!

The work I was allocated was interesting and challenging. Securing employment as graduates is an emerging challenge for Griffith’s First Peoples Health Group students. I was tasked with drafting an Employability Plan to guide FPHU in engaging with Griffith’s First Peoples Health Group students to design specialised services to meet specific career development needs. The Plan also addressed the identified need to strengthen the cultural capability of non-First Peoples Health Group students and better facilitate pathways into the First Peoples Health sector. FPHU had been intending to design a strategic plan to address these issues for a while, so it was incredibly rewarding to be able to make some significant headway in this project.

I was also able to participate in NAIDOC week events. Griffith University held an event on campus that celebrated the resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures with performers and representative speakers, and promoted the incredible work undertaken by Indigenous units within different departments. Interacting with Griffith students and staff from behind the FPHU stall really anchored me to the team - I was surprised to feel so comfortable in relaying FPHU’s values and promoting their upcoming projects.

Later in the week we attended another event at the Gold Coast University Hospital with an FPHU stall in amongst many other First Peoples community health groups and health services. I had a chance to speak with representatives from various First Peoples Health community health services and get a feel for the work other organisations were doing in cultural capability and inclusivity.

Overall, FPHU went above and beyond to ensure that we were getting the most out of our time on the Gold Coast. One of our supervisors, Chris, organised for us to visit the Jellurgal cultural centre in Burleigh, where we were taken on a tour of the surrounding area by a local guide, Aubrey. Aubrey relayed his knowledge of the local flora and fauna, explaining to us in detail how the Yugambeh peoples would use and care for the land. I wasn’t expecting to be able to get to know the area that deeply – this was by far the highlight of my time on the Gold Coast.

I applied to the Aurora Internship Program because I felt disappointed in my undergraduate studies in the area of First Peoples’ history and its relevance to the public health sector within Australia. Whilst I have much more to learn, my time spent with FPHU definitely gave me some insight into the into First Peoples barriers faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples within higher education and the health workforce. The five weeks I spent with FPHU were eye-opening, thought-provoking and empowering, and the experience has been absolutely invaluable to my professional and personal development.

You can apply through the Aurora Internship Program here! Applications for the winter 2020 round will be open from 2 through 27 March 2020