Stuart McGrath, an Aboriginal Health Practitioner and Bachelor of Nursing student, is on track to become the first registered Yolgnu nurse in Australia and make a significant impact on public health in his community.
And despite overcoming a host of challenges to get to where he is, his determination to achieve his dream remains strong.
On track to become the first registered Yolgnu nurse in Australia
At 13 he moved to Canberra to live with his Auntie and Uncle after his parents died. Stuart was the only Yolgnu person at his school. He also barely spoke English but came back to his hometown 2 years later and with a fresh perspective on community health.
“I was able to compare what was happening on the island to what I’d seen in Canberra. I’d been in a place where people were healthy and I came back and realised there was another way people didn’t have to be sick and dying all the time.”
“Back home I was living in poverty in Australia, a first world country, and I just realised that it wasn’t acceptable.”
He’s been back to Canberra once since returning to NT, to meet with the Prime Minister earlier this year after being named the Northern Territory’s Young Person of the Year for 2021.
“I hope that receiving that award will help to inspire other people to make a change,” he said.
“Radical change is a hard thing for not only indigenous people but human beings. It’s hard but it needs to happen.”
Stuart says he didn’t achieve the ATAR required for direct entry into a Bachelor of Nursing so he first completed a Certificate IV in primary health practice to gain entry to Charles Darwin University. The 28 year old admits that even he struggles to comprehend how he’s overcome the list of challenges.
“My society has been very oppressed for a long time so it’s unusual for people to get out and do something different from normal,” he said.
“There’s this thing called lateral violence where people pull you down. It’s not just something that happens in Indigenous cultures it can happen anywhere. But if you want to succeed you just need to kill the negative noise and believe in yourself. It’s a hard thing to do but you can do it.
“I have two daughters, they’re 10 and 11 years old, and they inspire me to keep going. I don’t want them to be in the same position I came from.”
Looking ahead, Stuart already has plans for how he can put his degree into practice.
“I’m thinking about doing a Masters of Public Health one day, but I don’t know when that will be yet. I’d also like to go overseas, maybe to Canada to work with their Indigenous Health for comparison,” he said.
“I want to get more advanced knowledge on health and help other people become better informed about their health and wellbeing.”