Jul 07, 2023

Embracing Indigenous heritage to bridge healthcare disparity – Taytum’s story

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Taytum Wiggs discovered her connection to the Ngemba Nation in Byrock, New South Wales.

Taytum Wiggs, a student at Mater Education, discovered her Aboriginal roots when she was just nine years old, following the passing of her grandfather. Since then, the teenager from D’Aguilar has wholeheartedly embraced her cultural heritage and aims to pursue a career in nursing and midwifery to contribute to the effort of closing the healthcare gap.

“After my grandfather passed away, my grandmother delved into his family history because we didn’t know much about his origins,” Taytum shared. “We found out that he belonged to the Ngemba people in New South Wales, and we suspect he was part of the stolen generation.”

Although the revelation came too late for her grandfather, Taytum firmly believes that he would have taken pride in his Indigenous Australian identity. Now, as a finalist in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year category at the upcoming Queensland Training Awards North Coast regional final, she feels honoured to celebrate her Ngemba heritage.

“A year ago, I wouldn’t have believed it if you had told me,” Taytum admitted. “Being a finalist for such a prestigious award is truly exciting.”

Since 1962, the Queensland Training Awards have recognised excellence in vocational education and training (VET) across various categories. Taytum, a student at St Columban’s, is set to complete Mater Education’s Vocational Education and Training in Schools (VETiS) program by the end of June, earning a Certificate III in Health Services Assistance (HSA). 

This program allows students in grades 10, 11, and 12 to obtain nationally recognised qualifications while still in school.

While pursuing her university studies, Taytum currently works as an Assistant in Nursing (AIN) at Caboolture Hospital and intends to continue her employment. She first learned about the awards during a training day at Mater Education’s South Brisbane campus and subsequently discussed the possibility of nomination with her school’s career counsellor.

“It was a mutual decision,” Taytum explained. “I expressed my interest, and she said, ‘Let’s go for it.'”

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Master Education Student; Taytum Wiggs. (Photo Supplied)

During NAIDOC Week (July 2-9), Mater Education is commemorating the remarkable history, culture, and accomplishments of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples under the theme “For Our Elders.” Taytum believes that this week holds particular significance as it provides an opportunity to advocate for closing the healthcare gap.

“In my culture, there is a great deal of mistrust towards healthcare services. I witness it frequently at the hospital,” she acknowledged.

Ever since Taytum discovered her connection to the Ngemba Nation in Byrock, New South Wales, she has wholeheartedly embraced her heritage and continues to expand her knowledge.

“I find my culture and traditions truly beautiful,” she expressed.

Taytum actively participates in her school’s assemblies, often leading the Acknowledgement of Country and proudly carrying the Indigenous flag. She decided to pursue a career in healthcare through Mater Education’s VETiS program after witnessing her older sister’s involvement.

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the program. I was unsure about my future path, but I knew I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives,” Taytum shared. “I enjoy interacting with my patients and knowing that I’ve brightened their day.”

The Queensland Training Awards North Coast regional final is scheduled for Friday, July 28. Taytum, accompanied by her family, Mater Education Leader Educator Sue-Ellen Howard, and friends from work, will attend the ceremony.

“I’m incredibly excited about the gala dinner for the awards!” Taytum exclaimed.

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