A MARYBOROUGH nursing graduate believes it is her purpose to improve the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Sharlea Nicholson secured a graduate position with the Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service and is now exploring project opportunities in Indigenous health after graduating with a Bachelor of Nursing Studies through the University of the Sunshine Coast’s Fraser Coast campus.
“My main motivation for starting higher education was that I wanted to do more for my people – I felt it was my destiny to do so,” said Sharlea, who received a USC Leadership Award when she graduated.
“Before enrolling in Nursing Science, I was working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care helping to improve access to health care and promote the Closing the Gap program,” she said.
“In this role, I identified a lack of Aboriginal nurses working in health and felt that by gaining clinical qualifications I could support my people in improving their wellbeing,” she continued.
“I had also witnessed first-hand the dire impacts of chronic health conditions that impacted on my family and been confronted with the harsh reality of a shortened life expectancy for my people.”
Sharlea said she also wants to focus her future career on gaining insights into the high suicide rate among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – especially particularly young men.
“I’ve lost a close family member to suicide and have seen the pain and suffering my family went through, and still goes through,” she said.
“This has motivated me to really unpack what’s happening within our communities when it comes to suicide. It’s an incredibly disheartening and a harsh reality for us.”
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The mother of three said her children were also her inspiration to study.
“I want to show my young daughters that they too can aspire to be whatever it is that their heart’s desire,” she said.
“I feel the importance of being a good role model and believe that we have an obligation to ensure our children are given equal educational opportunities.”
Sharlea, who is a member of the Mununjali nation from Beaudesert, also shares a connection with the Butchulla and Gubbi Gubbi people through her partner and children.
Sharlea said completing an overseas clinical nursing placement, securing a competitive national Indigenous scholarship, and taking on leadership roles were among the highlights of her undergraduate studies at USC Fraser Coast.
“Through my university journey, I endeavoured to make the most of student life and do what I could to actively support my fellow peers,” she said.
Her roles included being an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student representative on the Nursing Student Association, a peer supporter for Fraser Coast nursing students, and a committee member of the Fraser Coast Active Minds.
“Through helping others, I was able to gain leadership skills to support other facets of my professional and personal life,” she said.
“I am also proud that in my final year, my desire to help improve health outcomes in my community contributed to receiving a Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship, which aims to encourage Indigenous undergraduates studying health-related degrees.”
Applications are open to study at USC.
USC will hold its interactive online Open Day on Sunday, 18 July. You can register for the event by clicking on this link.