Exploring partnership opportunities in the Torres Strait Islands

4 Nov 2021

Representatives from the University of Queensland (UQ) and Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) travelled to the Torres Strait Islands in September to explore the potential for student clinical placements, local health training, research partnerships and educational pathways leading to employment opportunities to support a sustainable health workforce in the Torres Strait.

The group, which included Professor Bronwyn Fredericks, Professor James Ward, Dr Carmen Pater, Mr Carl Francia, Mr Curtley Nelson, Ms Ruth Dunwoodie (UQ), Mr Gabe Oath and Mr Jed Fraser (IAHA), had the opportunity to meet with many community representatives and organisations supporting health services in the Torres Strait Islands on Thursday Island, Erub Island, Mabuiag Island and Saibai Island. Access to mainstream health services can be challenging and is most limited for those in the outer island communities. The team explored with a range of stakeholders, possible opportunities for a presence of UQ students on clinical placements, desired community research, and student pathways with a focus on supporting outer island communities.

Ruth Dunwoodie, Clinical Education Liaison Manager at the UQ School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said that conversations around working with the communities were positive though at times, personally confronting.

“As I listened and learned of the challenges facing the communities particularly on the outer Islands. It is hard to acknowledge this is occurring in QLD!  Now I understand the initial question put to us, “Are you up for the challenge?” each time we engaged with a different community.”

The team is now developing the next steps to explore a realistic and sustainable relationship with Torres Strait Island communities that is of mutual benefit, whilst ensuring cultural protocols continue to be followed in the approach.