For nearly three decades, Professor Jacinta Elston has worked in higher education, furthering efforts to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in Australia. Professor Elston is an Aboriginal woman from North Queensland and the inaugural Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous) at Monash University.
When awarded an NHMRC Capacity Building Grant, Professor Elston and the team at James Cook University had two goals: to support emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and academic leaders to develop their careers in research and health; and to develop partnerships with Indigenous community-controlled health services.
Over two-thirds of Indigenous primary health services organisations reported the recruitment, training and support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff as a challenge in delivering quality health services1
1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations: Online Services Report — key results 2017–18” Australian Government. 8 July 2019. Accessed 25 August 2020. www.aihw.gov.au/reports/ihw/212/atsi-health-organisation-osr-key-results-2017-18/contents/at-a-glance
“NHMRC funding helped to provide the resources to create a space to share experiences, develop and discuss areas of interests and build a sense of community, as well as allowing us to foster emerging Indigenous researchers into the research community.
“This project operated within a framework of Indigenous leadership, ownership and engagement.
“Efforts to improve the health, wellbeing and lives of Indigenous people nationally and internationally require a skilled and supported workforce, which is increasingly being led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.
“Decolonising views about the progression of Indigenous researchers at varying career stages, the participants partnered with investigators in a shared learning journey about research methodologies and community-driven research activities. This gave them the tools to plan their career pathways and identify impact aspirations.”
“With this grant now complete, the next steps are in the hands of researchers. Participants now have a solid foundation to progress their career in their chosen field, some of which are cardiovascular, mental and maternal health; infectious diseases; alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; housing; and youth, women and human rights.”
Over the past decade, the cohort of participants acquired tertiary qualifications that include an undergraduate degree and 17 postgraduate degrees. The project also resulted in a number of participants being appointed to professorships and associate professorships, and the leadership of numerous research centres, grants and programs. Across the life of the project, the Indigenous research participants also increased their publication rates.
Professor Elston is currently working to strengthen efforts and grow Indigenous research contributions at Monash University.