AN initiative for Aboriginal women and children that aims to identify health problems and provide early intervention has been named a winner at the University of Newcastle’s Vice Chancellor Awards.
Vice Chancellor, Professor Alex Zelinsky AO, said the awards announced on Monday night acknowledged the “hard work and dedication that underpins the success of our university”.
Gomeroi gaaynggal Centre’s Jodie Herden, Lyniece Keogh, Paris Knox and Kate Sutherland were named overall winners of the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Professional Staff (Team) for their research and art programs with the Indigenous population in Tamworth.
Executive officer Ms Keogh said it was an “absolute honour” for UON to recognise their efforts, especially considering they were not on campus.
“Renal disease was identified as an issue within the community at the beginning of this project [in 2009],” she said.
“They wanted answers about why we have such high rates and what we could to work against those high rates, to try to counter them.
“This was about early detection so we can intervene earlier so it doesn’t have a huge impact on people and the community as they get older.
“All our team members collect almost all the data from participants, so we’re working within our own community to improve physical, social and emotional health outcomes.”
Ms Keogh said the centre’s research program assisted women from their pregnancy through the first 10 years of their child’s life.
“During pregnancy we see them three times to take antenatal ultrasounds, blood testing, urine and saliva samples and the mums complete surveys on their mental health and nutrition,” Ms Keogh said.
“There can be a long wait to get into other ultrasound services and mums have said they prefer to come to us because it’s a more relaxed environment and we have a play area out the back.
“We then follow up after the birth – four times in the first 12 months and then once a year after they turn one.
“We collect data from blood and urine, monitor blood pressure, talk about general health and well being.
“We take measurements of the children to ensure they are growing properly.
“We also look at factors affecting the mum and child to do with chronic disease.”
Ms Keogh said the team had identified issues including renal disease, diabetes and pre-eclampsia.
“We’re closing the gap by making clinical services more accessible and comfortable.”
The centre also operates an art program, which aims to connect youth to their culture as well as to their community and elders.
“People can be so disconnected from each other, this is about bringing the community together.”
Denise Higgins was the overall winner of the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence.
Dr Elise Kalokerinos and Dr Jordan Smith were the overall winners for the Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Early Career Researcher of the Year.
Associate Professor Anna Giacomini was overall winner of the Vice-Chancellors’ Award for Research Supervisor of the Year.
Other categories included awards for international engagement, health and safety excellence and collaboration excellence.