Aboriginal psychologist Clinton Schultz (pictured)has been appointed to Griffith University’s School of Public Health where he is further developing Indigenous Health as a core subject.

The innovative course will be offered as a core subject to Nursing, Midwifery, Physiotherapy and Public Health undergraduates from the first semester of 2012.

“It’s about taking a holistic approach to health and realising how culture influences health,” he says.

“It’s important that people realise how changing policies and procedures in any organisation can help improve the health and wellbeing of minority groups.”

The Indigenous Health lecturer is focused on developing cultural competence among students.

“Cultural competence is not a destination or an end target, but rather an ongoing journey of learning and adjustment of behaviours, beliefs and actions. It requires knowledge, self reflection, sensitivity and strong cross-cultural communication skills.

“This is a really important subject for anyone starting out in health today. If we are going to work towards closing the gap in health inequality we need to start by educating our future health professionals about the disparities which exist and the history which has led to these.”

The Indigenous Health course will give students an understanding of how Australia’s shared history has influenced the health of the Indigenous population, and analyse the social determinants of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

This will include areas like nutrition and Indigenous diet, the effect of climate change on the health of Indigenous people, and how racism maintains a cycle of trauma across generations.

The program also looks at the distinction between social-emotional wellbeing and conventional understanding of health and wellbeing.

It explains the different relationships and partnerships involved in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health care, and describes the disparity in access to primary health care of Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people.

The course also encourages conversations asking why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to face barriers when seeking health care and what can be done.

“Ultimately I would like to see Indigenous Health established as a standalone subject across the health group. I’d also like to see more advanced field specific courses established that incorporate sending students out into the field to gain firsthand experience on placements.

“I want health students coming to university ready to engage with Indigenous Health.”

Clinton Schultz is a Kamilaroi man whose country lies in northwest NSW. He is actively involved with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community of the Gold Coast where he has lived most his life.

He qualified with an honours degree in psychological science at Griffith University before going on to gain his registration as a psychologist.

Clinton has worked in many rural, remote and urban Indigenous communities since graduating from Griffith.

Most recently he worked for GPGC where his energies were focused on the ‘Closing the Gap’ project through the Gold Coast Division of GPs and on improving the cultural competence of primary and allied health services in the region.

He is a member of the Australian Indigenous Psychologist Association and is researching a PhD at Griffith University.