Roberts Edwards was a Finalist in the ‘Office for Youth Aboriginal Achievement Award’ and a Semi-Finalist in the ‘Rural Doctors Workforce Agency Rural Health Award’.
Young Aboriginal people are using their stories and life experiences to build up their community and encourage others to strive for their dreams. As one of the passionate and dedicated young Aboriginal people who make an incredible contribution to the South Australian community, being nominated for both awards is an outstanding achievement and acknowledges Roberts commitment as he works hard to realise his dreams in his chosen career as a Paramedic with SA Ambulance Service here in South Australia.
Robert, 20 of Bedford Park is a descendant of the Eastern Aranda peoples of central Australia. He is currently undertaking studies in the Bachelor of Health Sciences (Paramedic) at Flinders University and also volunteers with several rural health organisations as he strives to achieve his lifelong goals to improve the quality of health care in rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
A volunteer with the Country Fire Service and SA Ambulance Service he is also currently employed by the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) in a bid to bring this positive program to South Australia and he firmly believes that “mentoring opportunities such as AIME play a critical role in the success of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students studying at Universities across South Australia”.
Robert is passionate about his role and is motivated and committed to fulfilling his objective to work in rural and remote South Australian settings “I want to experience issues firsthand and learn more about the struggles and difficulties facing Aboriginal peoples and then work towards translating my experiences into tangible outcomes to provide the best possible care for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”.
To date, Robert has completed the Certificate II Emergency Medical Service First Response and Certificate IV in Health Care (Ambulance) in order to support his professional role. He is an active member of the SA Ambulance Service Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Staff Network (SAASATSISN), which is a unique opportunity for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander staff working within SA Ambulance Service, providing a platform for staff to network, encourage and mentor each other within their respective roles.
His involvement with the Country Fire Service from the ripe old age of 15, has seen Robert participate in many exciting courses including Road Crash Rescue, Compressed Air Breathing Apparatus, Level 2 Suppress Wildfire, Plantation Fire Fighting, Dignity Training and Compartment Fire Behaviour and it was from his experiences with the Country Fire Service that his passion was further ignited to become a paramedic.
In 2011, Robert was elected the Junior National Rural Health Student Network (NRHSN) Representative for the Flinders University Rural Health Society (FURHS). As a result of his enthusiasm and dedication he has been voted in to progress to the role of Senior NRHSN Representative for FURHS for 2012.
The major role for the NRHSN Representative in FURHS is to organise Rural High School Visits (RHSV). These visits are to rural areas in South Australia, encouraging students to stay in school, live healthy lives, and consider a career in the health arenas. There is a great need for more rural health practitioners, and Robert believes that “recruiting from rural areas is vital to improving Community health”, and he hopes to inspire other young people to strive to succeed and in turn give back to their communities. Visits organised by Robert to date include Lamaroo, Murray Bridge, Mount Barker, Mount Gambier, and Naracoorte in 2011. In each of these towns, Robert and his team of FURHS volunteers, showcase aspects of health careers to students from year seven (7) through to twelve (12). Activities include; plastering fingers, listening to heart, lungs, and bowels with stethoscopes, testing reflexes with tendon hammers, anatomy with ‘Gutsy Gus’ the plastic body model, and scenarios where students are involved in learning what health professionals do and how they all work together. Robert played an instrumental role in the development of a template guide for modelling Rural High School Visits for the volunteers of the Rural Health Society in conjunction with each of the Universities in South Australia (Adelaide University, The University of South Australia, and Flinders University). This template is now being utilised by Rural Health Societies all over Australia.
With his never faltering attitude, enthusiasm and genuine passion for what he wants to achieve in life, particularly in ‘givingback’ to the community Robert has participated in many rural conferences and events including: Campfire, the ‘triclub’ conference for South Australia where students from all three Universities combine to experience the lifestyle in a regional or remote town and hear from health professionals working in these towns; Face to Face, the NRHSN meeting for all rural health representatives from across Australia to gather and work towards goals for the year. These goals are the objectives of each Rural Health Society across Australia. After attending Face to Face, Robert applied for the ‘Indigenous Health Portfolio’ of the NRHSN as the role would see him as an advisor to all Rural Health Societies across Australia; Vibe Alive, Indigenous Festival held in Port Augusta for school students to learn about living a healthy life. This particular festival sees Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from all over South Australia and the Northern Territory travelling to Port Augusta annually.
Roberts says “I managed to get myself organised during the last Vibe Alive festival and went out on night shifts with some of the paramedics in Port Augusta, it was an amazing experience and provided some of that ‘firsthand’ contact I have been craving”, it is experiences like this that show initiative and will enable Robert to make the most of every opportunity that comes his way; Multi-Disciplinary Health Professions Expo created an environment for students to gain hands on experience in a variety of health disciplines. Robert was an important part of the organisation for this event and volunteered a ‘training’ ambulance for show; and CARAH Health Club Alice Springs Weekend showcased more of rural and remote setting in the heart of Australia particularly with the Traditional Owners of the Aranda peoples which is significant considering Robert is a descendent from the Eastern Aranda tribes. SA Ambulance Service sponsored Robert to attend this event as it gave him the opportunity to learn more about what it means to work in remote Aboriginal communities. Robert is incredibly passionate about education and learning, “I want to know all about my Eastern Aranda culture and also the other 639 odd Aboriginal Cultures throughout Australia and the Torres Strait Islands so that I can share and do more”. As part of the weekend there
were several Rural Health Practitioners available to discuss the issues that they continually face in remote areas. I feel truly blessed to have been able to take part in this unique experience as one of only 10 people invited attend from all around Australia” he said. “I applied, and was successful in being offered a place which was in turn sponsored by SA Ambulance Service, I have been very fortunate”.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Cultural Safety within the healthcare environment is very important to Robert. He is dedicated to improving the lives of others, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples and is keen to show Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders that there are young inspired Aboriginal people like himself willing to learn and share, “we really do care about the true history of this country and we will strive to keep our culture, language and knowledge alive” he said.
One of the aims for FURHS in 2012 is to fund as many students as possible to attend Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language courses, where they will also be able to learn about more about Aboriginal culture. Robert will be following the progress and lives of 4 young Aboriginal youth, helping to share their stories, dreams, developments and aspirations in addition to mentoring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander High School students, inspiring them to live a healthy lifestyle and strive for and participate in higher education.
Being part of FURHS, SA Ambulance Service, AIME and the Country Fire Service has facilitated Robert’s ever growing passion and enthusiasm. “I try to immerse myself in every environment and opportunity to gain the maximum learning experience so one day I can have a positive impact on rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healthcare” Robert said.
Through professional development and education, Robert’s passion for giving back to his community continues to grow. With this new found knowledge he is eager to make a positive difference and hopes to benefit others in any way he can. In addition to his professional career, Robert is also a talented musician performing most recently for the 2011 Graduation Ceremony for SA Ambulance Service. “I was really honoured to be approached personally by the CEO of SA Ambulance Service [Mr Ray Creen] and to be invited to perform at the Awards Ceremony, it was a great privilege but really scary when he rang me, I think everyone would panic getting a call from the CEO out of the blue but I was very excited about the opportunity” said Robert, who has been playing the guitar and singing since he was 8 years old.
Personally it was a genuine surprise for Robert to be nominated and acknowledge in the Channel 9 Young Achiever’s Awards, “I didn’t think anybody really noticed the things I am doing or that I had any real impact on others” but being recognised through the nominations really hit home for him, “I am achieving my goals… I would strongly encourage others to nominate the many young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people doing positive things within their communities, the impact that recognition has on attitude and self-esteem is priceless, I am very grateful for the people who encourage and believe in me every day”.
Robert Edwards’ best work is yet to come and I believe he will be a lifetime achiever, an expert in his chosen field. His strength, determination and passion will see him deliver an ongoing commitment to providing better health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities throughout Australia.
He is motivating other young people to make positive change, proving that every single person counts and can make a difference. The steps he has taken so far, at such a young age, are an inspiration. His energy and enthusiasm for achieving the goals he sets for himself will see him reach success in spectacular style.