Health boost for Indigenous students at Murdoch

May 6, 2015

Kerin Martin

Kerin Martin

Students enrolled in Murdoch’s Indigenous enabling program K-Track are learning about health related issues and being encouraged to lead healthier lifestyles thanks to a new unit in the 14 week course.

The iHealth unit has been funded thanks to a grant from the Health Department of Western Australia and has seen the K-Track students work closely with staff and students from the exercise science and psychology disciplines who are assessing their health and tracking their progress in weekly training sessions.

The 13 students will also undertake a Senior First Aid training course, an Aboriginal Mental Health First Aid course, conduct their own medical research and receive nutrition advice from a qualified chef as part of the unit.

“By the end of the course, we hope the students will have a better understanding of the health issues affecting Aboriginal communities and a better awareness of the prevention and treatment of common health conditions, as well a number of new practical skills,” said unit coordinator Dr Karin Strehlow.

“They will also learn about how medical research is conducted and gain an understanding about the ways in which Indigenous traditional knowledge is applied in modern health care.

“The students have particularly enjoyed the weekly training sessions with the exercise science students and are pleased with the progress they’ve already made in just a few weeks. The exercise science and psychology honours students have been so professional in all of their interactions with us and incredibly encouraging.

“Already many of the students who weren’t sure what they were going to study at Murdoch have become interested in exercise science as a possible option as a result of the iHealth unit.”

As part of the unit, students and staff at Kulbardi have also been offered large discounts on Fitbits – the wireless activity tracker – by retailers The Good Guys in Malaga. The devices have helped them to keep track of their daily steps, the calories burned and even their sleep patterns.

K-Track student Kerin Martin, 29, from Baldivis said: “This unit is good because it helps us learn how to keep healthy and have a healthy lifestyle. It’s made us all want to be healthier.

“It’s made me think more about how I exercise and what I eat and the activity helps to keep us mentally healthy also.

“We’ve taken back what we’ve learnt to our families and the exercise science students are just as motivated as we are.”

Dr Brad Wall and Dr Mark Hecimovich from the School of Psychology and Exercise Science have worked closely with all students to ensure that the exercise and activity sessions are designed to enhance health and well-being and have been pleased by the overall experience.

Third year exercise physiology student Thomas Le Huray, 26, said both the K-Track and the exercise science and psychology students had all progressed as a result of the unit.

“The K-Track students are showing fitness improvements every week and their confidence and trust in us is building,” he said. “This experience is also helping us to improve our skills in assessments and communication.”

Braden Hill, manager of Kulbardi Aboriginal Centre which runs K-Track and provides support to Aboriginal students at Murdoch said the unit was designed to build aspirations and continued Murdoch’s tradition of Indigenous and non-Indigenous collaboration.

“These partnerships are also opening up doors for, not only cross-cultural engagement, but also cross-discipline activities – including teaching, learning and research at Murdoch University,” he added. “It is hoped that these new relationships will provide the opportunity for new research projects focusing on teaching and learning and health and wellbeing.”

K-Track assists indigenous students to gain entry to undergraduate study at Murdoch University. The course is designed to help the participants develop the skills necessary for success at university and help them to realise how empowering being a successful student can be.

The course is run twice a year at Murdoch’s South Street Campus.

Notes to editors

Aboriginal health services have also provided speakers, training and resources for the iHealth unit.

Moorditj Koort Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre provided a speaker to talk on diet related diseases, diet, diabetes and general health issues.

Aboriginal Alcohol and Drug Services * will be providing a speaker to talk about alcohol and drugs and the tools to negotiate these issues.

Patricia Councilor, an accredited instructor for the Aboriginal Mental Health First Aid Certificate, will provide a two day training course on Aboriginal mental health first aid.

Family Planning WA will be sending a speaker to talk about sexuality.

*Aboriginal Alcohol and Drug Services Inc is now called Wungening Aboriginal Corporation.

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