Get to know your College: Dr Oliver Black

One of the newest members of the Flinders in the NT team is Senior Lecturer and Research Fellow Dr Oliver Black.

Dr Black moved to Darwin in 2020 joining the Flinders team from Menzies School of Health Research. He has a background in mental health and social and emotional wellbeing research.

As a lecturer he develops and delivers self-care modules into various Flinders programs, including into the Transition to Remote Area Nursing and postgraduate courses.

Alongside his teaching, he is also undertaking research across the Top End including leading a project to co-design a social and emotional wellbeing stepped-care model for young Yolngu people in East Arnhem Land, and he also contributes to several other social and emotional wellbeing projects with Flinders researchers.

Growing up in Sydney he moved to the United States at the age of 13 with his family. He said he wasn’t particularly studious in school. After high school he spent a year building houses, before deciding it wasn’t for him and instead pursued psychology at uni, in New Zealand. He then went and did a Masters of Organisational Psychology before settling in Melbourne in a job helping people with workplace psychological injuries. Working in this setting made him question whether he could contribute to designing better systems for people, informed by research.

“I found a research assistant role at Monash looking into workplace injury using a large administrative database and studying what factors might help someone with a mental health injury get back to work so it was in line with what I was trying to find out,” he said.

“The research assistant position then parlayed into a PhD in epidemiology with a focus on workplace mental health injuries and factors that facilitate returning to work after injury.”

He was awarded an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellowship at Deakin University and also worked in a knowledge translation role at a major mental health NGO.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit and Dr Black and his partner viewed this a sign to act on a long-discussed plan to move north to work in more applied health research settings – ultimately landing in Darwin.

Dr Black has ties to the Anaiwan mob, from the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales. He is currently exploring his Aboriginal heritage, which he grew up disconnected from.

“I made a trip there with my mum this year and we ended up meeting relations and it was quite a surreal experience,” he said.

“They knew more about the movements of our line of the family than we did. They told us my great, great grandma moved away from the area and became disconnected from the rest of her family, and so mum was really close to her grandma but never got any of the details.

“Just from a personal perspective, finding out about your family that has gone before is quite impactful but adding a rich history and ties to the country for thousands of years is a heady thing. It’s something I’m really proud to have.”

He said moving to Darwin had allowed him to learn and undertake more research in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional and mental health sphere. When Dr Black finds spare time between his teaching and research work, he is exploring the Territory, running, or walking his two whippet dogs with his partner, Cass.

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