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How a background in psychology is helping Indigenous alumnus to close the gap  

[by Tiahna Fiddling]

Manager of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute Greg Pratt and CQUniversity Deputy Vice-President of Indigenous Engagement Professor Adrian Miller. Image: supplied

In 2008 Greg Pratt had every intention of pursuing a career as a registered psychologist after he completed his Graduate Diploma in Psychology with CQUniversity, but little did he know this would only be a stepping stone to a rewarding future in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical research.

Over the past decade, he has dedicated his working life to closing the gap between the health status of Indigenous Australians with a focus in mental health, infectious diseases, chronic disorders and cancer at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

As a Quandamooka man, descendant of the Noonucal tribe on Stradbroke island, who also grew up with the Kuku Yalandji and Kuku-Thaypan people in Far North Queensland, Mr Pratt can provide a firsthand perspective into the health challenges of Indigenous communities.

“While I did not end up being a clinical psychologist as planned, my body of knowledge and ability to reflect on a theoretical understanding of psychology led me to a role where I can fulfil my passions for helping people, mental health and social and emotional wellbeing,” he said.

“As the Manager of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research, I work to determine the research agenda of over 600 scientists at QMIR and its relevance to First Nations health across Queensland.”

“For example, if our scientists are researching depression, I facilitate opportunities around how this research might be used to support health service improvements for Indigenous Australians.

“Pre COVID-19 I was involved in extensive community engagement to bring the voices of people in regional and remote areas into our research.

“If we are not engaged in healthcare issues, the burden of disease may grow for these communities, further widening the gap.”

He explained that these insights into First Nations communities have led to pioneering developments in the field of genomics.

“Using genomics in healthcare is expected to grow to predict disease risk, diagnose disease more accurately, and guide treatment, however Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People haven’t been involved in conversations about what precision medicine or genomics looks like for them.

“In response, we developed a set of guidelines called Genomic Partnerships to help researchers undertake genomic research in collaboration with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders.

“The guidelines were informed by a series of consultations and engagement and with stakeholders and community members across Queensland, including CQUniversity and Deputy Vice-President of Indigenous Engagement Professor Adrian Miller.

“We anticipate the guidelines will enhance engagement with these communities and encourage the kinds of discussions people want to engage in,” he said.

With NAIDOC Week celebrations taking place on the 8 - 15 November, Mr Pratt encouraged everyone to take the time to consider how they could contribute to positive change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“To me, NAIDOC Week and this year’s theme ‘Always Was, Always Will Be’ is not only a time to celebrate the achievements of First Nations cultures but a reminder for everyone to reflect on how they can support Indigenous peoples into the future.

“It can be as large as introducing new Indigenous policies, programs and services, or it can be as simple as self-reflection, education and listening.”

To find out how to get involved in NAIDOC Week, visit https://www.naidoc.org.au/get-involved/naidoc-week-events

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