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First Nations students explore traditional knowledge through CDU program

Brendan Foster -

First Nations students from across the Top End have descended on Darwin this week to learn how to incorporate Indigenous traditional knowledge into Western education, as part of a Charles Darwin University program.

Charles Darwin University's (CDU) First Nations Introduction to University – Health welcomed 17 Indigenous students to the program this week from around the Territory, including Darwin, Milikapiti, Gapyuwiak, Ramingining, and Jabiru.

The free course, which is in its second year, looks at the various pathways to health qualifications and careers for First Nations students.

Students get to explore several health programs through the course including community-controlled health care, occupational therapy and speech pathology, emergency health care, psychology, health policy, and research.

CDU Health Sciences Lecturer, Emily Gilbert, said the program highlighted the importance of growing the First Nations presence in the health system.

"First Nations people are best cared for by First Nations people - this is why it so important to increase the number of First Nations students in health-related courses and then ultimately the health workforce," Dr Gilbert said.

"Our inaugural health pathways program in 2023 saw five of the seven enrolled health students successfully begin their journey, four of whom enrolled in a health-related undergraduate degree and one student in TEP at CDU.

"It is a really exciting time for these students - who have taken the next step in their journey, and we look forward to supporting the students throughout the program and beyond."

CDU First Nations Health and Culture Specialist, Ian Lee, said the course provided students with critical insights into tertiary education.

"It is fantastic to see the CDU's First Nations Introduction to University for Health program growing each year, and it is so good to have a quarter of the enrolments from remote Aboriginal communities," he said.

"The enrolments are only the start of their pathway and the real success is going to come from the students completing their studies at TAFE or higher education, but every student is to be congratulated for their courage for taking each step towards a career in health.

"The problems with health in remote Aboriginal communities are compounded but geographical isolation, limited health workforce, socioeconomic disadvantage, as well as intergenerational trauma and the environmental challenges. More local health professionals are desperately needed in all remote Aboriginal communities."

Students can also enrol in introductory programs for teacher education, arts and humanities, and STEM and the university also supports students in higher education with its First Nations Pre-Business, Pre-Accounting, and Pre-Law programs.

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