Celebrating 25 years of impact and partnership in the NT

Wise Counsel, with Kathleen Martin

It’s not even morning teatime and Kathleen Martin has just introduced 600 years of history in a one-hour lecture.

“They always have questions, but I ask them to hold on to them until the tutorial, when we have two hours and can start to talk in a bit more depth,” Kathleen says.

Lecturing in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health to students in both the paramedicine and medicine programs, Kathleen faces a daily challenge in providing context on a wider scale, but also a focus on key events in recent history that have been critical social determinants of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

Kathleen was appointed as a Lecturer in Indigenous Health by Flinders University in 2013, in recognition of both her wealth of local knowledge and experience working across northern Australia.

After growing up in Alice Springs, working across remote communities in Western Australia and the NT and now teaching from Flinders’ Darwin campus, Kathleen is able to draw on a rich vein of personal experiences to engage students. “If I can change one person’s mind and get them thinking outside the box, realising Aboriginal health is not as simple as you might think it is, then I am happy. If I can do that for a whole class, I am even happier!” Kathleen says.

“I love teaching. In 2019, I realised that I needed a change and a new challenge. Instead of taking a job elsewhere, I opted to stay with Flinders and transition into what is now Poche SA+NT so that I could work with Year 1 and 2 medical students in Darwin as part of the Northern Territory Medical Program.

“I wanted to give medical students the opportunities to learn what Aboriginal Health means from an Aboriginal perspective, taught by an Aboriginal academic whose community lives and is impacted by the health problems that we talk about.” She said due to Covid-19 she held face-to-face and online lectures and tutorials, which posed some challenges but also opened avenues to reach new audiences.

“I was able to re-shape the way I taught and that meant I could engage with new audiences across Australia,” she said. “I have found it really satisfying, taking on recently-commenced Bachelor of paramedicine students, as well as medical students. The cultural content in the course was an eye opener for them. As I was going through the course, I would tell them stories from my life, which helped to build that enthusiasm and they have fed that enthusiasm back to me continuously, even though it’s online.”

“I am always getting emails from students on placement, taking what we had taught and applying it on placement, so that’s really satisfying,” says Kath. “I recently reflected on the fact that I enjoy working here and have developed a level of respect for my colleagues: they are passionate about what we do here in the Northern Territory Medical Program and, like me, would not want to work in any other place.”

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