Proud Mandandanji and Kamilaroi Aboriginal man Matt Maley is in his final year of a Bachelor of Paramedicine undergraduate degree at CQ University. Matt received a scholarship of $10,000 from the Aspen Medical Foundation.

Since 2014, the Aspen Medical Foundation has been providing scholarships to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students to further their career and knowledge in Indigenous health.

We caught up with Matt and had a quick chat about his choice of a healthcare career, the challenges he has faced, and how the scholarship has helped him pursue his dream. 

AMF: Matt, have you always wanted to be in healthcare?

MM: I have wanted to be in healthcare from an early age, the earliest memory I have of this dream was at the age of 13. 

AMF: What was the motivation for you?

MM: My biggest motivation were the strong, resilient, and passionate female leaders in my family working in health. My family has a strong relationship with Queensland Health. My big Nan and little Nan worked at the Miles Hospital, in the Darling Down region, for more than 60 years. My mum Kerry is an Advanced Social Worker, Executive Director of Aboriginal Health and Community Engagement for Mackay Hospital and Health Service; my Aunty MeeMee is the Director of Nursing at the Miles Hospital. Listening to their good news stories and observing their passion and dedication for achieving health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been a great motivator. I remember my mum telling me about the positive impact for patients when they know they are being cared and supported for by an Aboriginal clinician. I am proud to have been part of my people’s health journey and have witnessed the relief which came over a patient’s face when I shared my cultural identity, belonging, and community. I am motivated to help community and for my family and community to be proud of me. I also hope to motivate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to consider taking up a career in healthcare.

AMF: What challenges, if any, did you experience as an Indigenous person throughout your education?

MM: Growing up Dysart, I had limited access to subject choices, however, to overcome this, mum and dad supported me to enroll into the Central Queensland University Start Uni Now (SUN) program to complete a chemistry subject to assist in gaining a university offer. 

AMF: Do you think having more First Nations healthcare professionals can help with closing the gap? 

MM: Yes, having more First Nations healthcare professionals can assist in closing the gap. I believe this can be achieved through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities having access to culturally competent and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led healthcare.  This in turn leads to improved trust, better communication and increased understanding of the unique health needs and challenges faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

AMF: What else needs to happen? 

MM: It is crucial to address and eliminate racism. Racial discrimination is recognised as a key social determinant of health and driver of health inequities. Growing up in rural communities I understand the importance of the need for a focus on improving healthcare services in rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Meaningful collaboration and partnerships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and Community-Controlled organisations and non-Indigenous healthcare providers is essential. This involves actively involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in decision making processes, respecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and practices and ensuring that healthcare services are culturally safe, and trauma informed.

AMF: How will the Aspen Medical Foundation scholarship help you through your degree? 

MM: The Aspen Foundation scholarship allows me to focus on my degree whilst maintaining my cultural kinship responsibilities of caring for my little sister and grandparents. The Aspen Medical Foundation scholarship supports me to work to my fullest and achieve high grades for each subject. The scholarship also supports me to study in a full-time capacity and supports me to attend compulsory placements and on campus exams and blocks. The Aspen Medical Foundation scholarship supported me in attending my clinical placement for 6 weeks in Brisbane with QAS at the Roma Street Station. The scholarship enabled me to experience what being a paramedic would be like in the city compared to regional and rural Queensland. The scholarship has provided me with opportunities I wouldn’t have been able to pursue otherwise. 

AMF: What would you do to encourage young Indigenous children to consider a career in health?

MM: Be a positive role model, share my academic experiences and successes with young Indigenous children through storytelling and yarns. I am willing to become a mentor and tutor to assist in young people seeking a career in health.


Find out more about Aspen Medical Foundation scholarships here


Image of young man facing camera
Aspen Medical Foundation scholarship recipient, and proud Mandandanji and Kamilaroi Aboriginal man Matt Maley
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