The pain of watching so many loved ones pass away early in life from health-related conditions inspired Natalie to change careers and become a health professional.
For Natalie, the desire to care for others has always been in her bones.
“When I finished Year 12 I came to TAFE Queensland to study childcare, and I worked in the industry for around a decade before I became a stay-at-home mum to my four children,” Natalie said.
“When my youngest child started school I decided to re-enter the workforce. But I was faced with the realisation that I'd been out of the childcare industry for too long and would need to do further study to bring myself up to industry standards.
“With that in mind, I decided to pursue a whole new career path — one that would allow me to better support my loved ones who, at the time, were facing very serious health concerns.”
Giving back as a qualified nurse wasn’t enough for Natalie, and she returned to TAFE Queensland once more to gain skills in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care — a study area she’s now teaching.
“My family comes from a multicultural background, but my Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage mostly stems from Bowen and Thursday Island,” Natalie said.
Natalie said teaching fulfils her desire to pass on her industry experience to others.
“My students and I are here to achieve the same goal, and that’s to change the health statistics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Natalie said.
“I'm so proud of all of my students and I tell them they're the ones who can make great happen and make a difference for themselves, their families and their community."
“I think I'm most proud of students who come to TAFE Queensland to learn with no past history or prior knowledge of health like myself — when I started I didn’t know anything about health!”
Natalie said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care professionals are vitally important to our health system.
“Primary health care focuses on the whole person, and it covers health care that is not related to a hospital visit including health promotion, prevention, early intervention, treatment of acute conditions and management of chronic illnesses,” Natalie said.
“I've always said that health workers are the keys to the community in terms of health care."
“Health workers know who lives in the community, who is unwell, what the family structures are, and who will need support and access to certain services.”
TAFE Queensland student Levina Dixon, a descendant of the Kunja and Wangkamurra people of South West Queensland, is studying a Certificate IV in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care Practice (HLT40213) under Natalie’s guidance.
“I've been a health worker for almost nine years with the Mulungu Aboriginal Corporation Primary Health Care Service in Mareeba, and I’m studying at TAFE Queensland to upskill and get some extra knowledge and information so I can help my people,” Levina said.
“Natalie is a wonderful teacher, she’s hands on and supportive and very knowledgeable in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.”
In Queensland, a push is underway to increase the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce across the public health system.
Natalie said working as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health care professional can be incredibly rewarding.
“If you strive to make a difference in someone’s life today, don’t hesitate. Take up the challenge, you won’t ever regret it — you can make a difference in someone’s life and they will thank you for it,” Natalie said.
TAFE Queensland delivers a comprehensive range of courses from certificate III through to diploma level qualifications in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care.