27 May 2021

As one of NHMRC’s first Indigenous Interns, Nada Powell is about to embark on her next journey which is likely to now include research.

Over the summer of 2016-17, Nada and three other interns experienced what it was like working at the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), on various projects across the agency. Nada had just completed her first year of medicine at the University of Newcastle and was not thinking about research being a part of her career.

Nada Powell

Fast forward to 2021 and Nada is about to finish her medical degree, start her medical internship and looking to start a Masters in public health next semester.

“Originally when I had started my degree I just wanted to do it and get working but this internship opened my eyes to what else I could, such as research. If I wanted to do research I could do it; I could do a PhD!”

Nada’s project with NHMRC involved interviewing Indigenous researchers and writing news articles for the communications team. This led Nada to be inspired “to do more,” she said.

The first time Nada considered doing anything further or any research was after meeting Professor Sandra Eades FAHMS through the internship.

Professor Eades was the first Indigenous medical practitioner to be awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy (2003). Her research career over the past 20 years has focussed on the epidemiology of Indigenous child health in Australia. Professor Eades is a member of NHMRC Council and chair of NHMRC’s Principal Committee Indigenous Caucus (PCIC). Last year NHMRC introduced a new Research Excellence Award honouring Professor Eades.

“Meeting Sandra had a big impact on me. I thought ‘wow, superstar’. She is this incredible Indigenous woman who changed and paved the way for so many other people like me.”

Nada then met Dr Michelle Bovill, who is a researcher in pregnancy smoking cessation in Indigenous communities. 

“She advised me that we need more black researchers because the way white people are researching doesn’t work for us black folks. We need to go to our communities and ask what they want, how they want it, and how we can change things," Nada said.

“Now when I look at research about Indigenous people I’m more aware of looking at who conducted the research, can I trust them, and has it been conducted in an appropriate, culturally safe way. Maybe that could be me in the future.” 

Looking forward Nada hopes to continue to be inspired by these ‘superstar’ Indigenous female researchers.

“I think it’s really important to have a mentor to help guide you and inspire you. And I’m hoping to find one or more as I start my health research career.”

Visit NHMRC's internship program page for more information.