Indigenous knowledge and disability research as CQ mum advocates for kids and community

[by Mary Bolling]

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Image: supplied

Noonukul Quandamooka woman Sam Cooms started on her career path determined to help her Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) community.

Becoming a mum to children with disabilities upended her world, and shifted her focus - but the determined CQUniversity Psychology alumnus and PhD student is still working to advocate for Indigenous communities, and for holistic care for all people with disabilities.

"That’s the way we’re raised – Aboriginal culture is about caring, not just about caring for the environment, but also caring for each other, as custodians," Ms Cooms explained.

"So if one of us do well then all of us do well, and if one of us is suffering, all of us suffer," Ms Cooms explained.

Researching how Indigenous knowledge can inform the disability sector, Ms Cooms has shared her findings and experience on CQUniversity's podcast How to Change a Life.

The mum of three explains how Indigenous values inform both her carer role, and her vision for a more inclusive society for people with disabilities – in Minjerribah, and nationally.

"Our Indigenous communities managed and included and were accessible for all people - disabilities, old age, it doesn’t matter, it was inclusive and accessible for all," she said.

"There’s a big push now to learn about Indigenous land management practices… but to be sustainable in the future, it’s not just about taking bits and pieces from our culture, it’s about creating a whole sustainable system, and part of that system is how we care and provide care."

"We need to make Australian society accessible and inclusive, and we need to have a conversation about how that’s going to look - so my learning about Indigenous knowledge around this will hopefully contribute to that conversation."

Sam is part of CQUniversity's First Nations Research Higher Degree Academy, the first of its kind in Australia.

She graduated from CQUniversity's Bachelor of Psychology with honours in 2009, while pregnant with her first daughter Emily, who was later diagnosed with Down Syndrome.

Sam attributes her passion for disability advocacy and Indigenous knowledge to her little girl. 

"Every single thing she learnt, she had to work hard to do, and I never once saw that little girl give up. So how could I possibly give up?" she said. 

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