17 March 2014

Occupational Therapist graduate Trevor RitchieTrevor Ritchie will become the first Indigenous occupational therapist in South Australia when he graduates from the University of South Australia this week.

Trevor will be one of more than 5000 UniSA students to graduate this month in ceremonies from March 17 – 21.   

For Trevor, the milestone of becoming the first Indigenous OT in South Australia is his own personal important step forward in closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

“Life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is significantly shorter than non-Indigenous Australians and they experience higher rates of preventable illness such as heart disease and diabetes,” Trevor says.

“I experienced this health inequity first hand - I grew up in the country on an Aboriginal mission called Point Pearce and as a child I always had health issues.

“I chose to study OT because of my own experiences and health issues and because the core values of OT – equity, social justice and a holistic approach to health – align with my own values.

“As the first Aboriginal occupational therapist in South Australia I have a sense and a passion to lead and support other Indigenous allied health professionals to follow in my footsteps. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by  the enormity of closing the gap in Aboriginal health inequity but I’m committed to playing my part.”

The Bachelor of Applied Science (Occupational Therapy) student has already secured a position, working as an OT at Novita Children’s Services. Trevor also works part-time as a graduate project officer at UniSA, supporting a number of Indigenous student engagement activities at the University.

“As a health professional I hope I’ll be able to push for generational change through my personal interactions with Aboriginal clients, ensuring they receive the best evidenced-based care,” Trevor says.

“I want to be proactive in the development of holistic policy for Aboriginal people that takes into account the social determinants of health such as education and housing employment.

“I am also passionate about education and I hope to promote the recruitment and retention of Aboriginal students at university, and to enable more Aboriginal professional health workers in our communities.”

UniSA Vice Chancellor Professor David Lloyd says graduations are days of celebration and anticipation.

“This is when we celebrate not only students’ hard work and success but also the potential of what comes next in their careers,” Prof Lloyd says.

“Like Trevor so many of our students are graduating from university with a drive to have a real impact on the world, to make their mark in their chosen field and at the same time to work towards a better society.  

“In March alone, nearly 500 graduates will start their journeys as teachers to the next generation.

“And more than 500 nurses will begin careers caring for some of our most vulnerable citizens – the sick, the injured and the elderly.

“I feel very proud when I see those figures and when I meet students like Trevor because I know UniSA has provided not only the education but also the inspiration for them to reach their goals and to make a tangible difference in the world.”   

Trevor was the recipient of the Irene and David Davy Scholarship for Advancement of Aboriginal Education. 

Media Contact

Rosanna Galvin office (08) 8302 0578 mobile 0434 603 457 email rosanna.galvin@unisa.edu.au

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