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Indigenous nursing students thriving at TAFE NSW

Dechlan Brennan -

Flexible learning and practical training are being offered for nursing students in New South Wales to help them flourish, as Indigenous nurses continue to remain under-represented in the health workforce.

Despite data showing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian nurses more than doubled between 2013 and 2021, more work is needed to help alleviate the imbalance. Especially as First Nations people continue to be over-represented in key health metrics and continue to suffer from trauma associated with some areas of healthcare.

TAFE NSW have been working to overcome some of this inequality through extra pathways and support.

39-year-old Indigenous student Allison Chand is doing her Nursing diploma at TAFE Nepean. She said she almost abandoned her career due to both the learning challenges, and the difficulties of some of her life experiences.

"I always aspired to a career in community service, as a nurse or a police officer, but I faced many challenges growing up and struggled in school," Ms Chand said.

"Life threw many challenges at me, including losing my home in the 2021 Hawkesbury River floods. It was the birth of my son Liam in October 2021 that re-ignited my motivation to pursue my dreams."

Last month, Ms Chand was able to begin her placement at Nepean Hospital, near Penrith, and aspires to become a midwife and support other Indigenous people in healthcare.

She emphasised the importance of embracing her Indigenous identity, as well as the importance of self-belief, to help close the game for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses.

"I used to conceal my Aboriginal heritage but now I'm proud of who I am," Ms Chand said. "Once I'm an enrolled nurse, I want to play a part in supporting the local Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander communities to live better, healthier lives."

She was grateful to NSW TAFE, with the course having a fee-free structure, as well as offering practicality and flexibility when it comes to learning, which has helped her prepare for "nursing in the real-world."

"The fee-free course has also allowed me to dive straight in without the financial concerns," Ms Chand said.

The Head of Nursing at TAFE NSW Nepean, Dianna King, said TAFE NSW was dedicated to enhancing educational and employment outcomes for Indigenous learners, and noted the last annual report showed 38,000 Indigenous enrolments across the state — a 5.5 per cent increase.

"We've had a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students through our course and it's wonderful to train these students with valuable nursing skills that will make a difference to their community," Ms King said.

"We provide an ideal environment with flexible study options and comprehensive support services that help students thrive and launch a meaningful and successful career in nursing."

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