Justin Cain is a Gamilaroi /Yuin man from Wollongong. Justin grew up mostly in the Shoalhaven, but he has moved around NSW, living in Lismore, Moree and then settling and studying in Wollongong. He is now living and working Canberra.
“I always found health sciences very interesting, particularly the body’s responses to certain things like disease, exercise and environment,” said Justin. “Also during the junior years of high school I was a fairly chubby kid and my nickname (to this day) has been Chubb. I decided one day to try going to the gym and I really enjoyed it, particularly a handful of group exercise classes and I thought to myself ‘this would be an interesting job’.”
“So I did my group fitness and personal trainer courses at a young age, but it wasn’t until I got a bit older (late teens) that I realised there are deeper health issues in society, particular in Aboriginal communities,” said Justin. “I then started paying more attention to working in that setting and helping people in my own communities achieve better health outcomes, which I loved doing. This made me think about studying exercise science at University and given that exercise can reduce the incidence of disease by 50%, I figured this would be the best way to go.”
I really hated school; I didn’t do well all the way up until year 11,” said Justin. “I didn’t have too many friends at school and focused a lot of my attention to my studies and I think that had given me some drive to be better.”
“In my HSC, I studied Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE), Biology, Aboriginal Studies, Business Studies and Standard English; I absolutely hated maths, chemistry and physics,” said Justin. “I entered Uni through the Indigenous entry pathway that the University of Wollongong had in place and was accepted into a double degree of exercise science and commerce. I was happy to still have achieved awesome marks in my HSC, so either way I was definitely going to Uni.”
“Starting exercise science was great fun, I knew I’d love Uni and I did,” said Justin. “It didn’t really bother me too much but I was the only Indigenous person studying exercise science at the time. This was compensated by all of the support my peers and teachers gave me throughout my studies.”
“I extended my studies out by 1 extra year because I had failed a couple of subjects,” said Justin. “But in hindsight all of the experiences I gained and the character building I went through during that time, I wouldn’t change it.”
“When you go to university, a lot of the responsibility is placed back on you to do the work, teachers won’t chase you up to get things done,” said Justin. “So my way of overcoming the challenges was proving to myself that I was capable and reinforcing the message to myself that ‘what doesn’t kill, makes you stronger’ and that the reward for overcoming hardship will feel a lot better than choosing the easy options.”
“My parents and extended family are so beyond proud and knowing that makes me feel that all the sacrifices and hardships were worth it,” said Justin. “It was really good because a lot of my close friends and I had graduated together and the feeling of accomplishment was shared all round.”
“All of the communities I’ve had involvement with over the years are also very proud and are happy to know they played some part in me finishing my degree,” said Justin. “I also had the pleasure of having a lot of mentors throughout my studies, many of whom I’m collaborating with on various projects and are happy to see the transition from a high school kid to a professional and make it all the way through.”
“I love knowing the structure and function of the human body and having been taught to understand the spectrum of conditions that can be placed on the body is good knowledge,” said Justin. “I love the problem solving skills and the ability to think logically and reasoning when analysing not just exercise and movement but a variety of situations. This is something that people don’t realise they acquire in this field.”
“An exercise science degree doesn’t just give you science knowledge – I’ve had the opportunity to take public and Indigenous health subjects in my studies,” said Justin. “So understanding the social determinants and community health side of things and how exercise science fits in the big picture is a necessary skill in a modern health professional.”
“As cliché as it sounds, I love being able to help people achieve their personal goals, regarding losing weight, getting fitter and stronger,” said Justin. “It comforts me knowing that the individual has now prolonged their life and capable to play with their kids, support their family, work to their capacity and live long happy lives.”
So what does Justin say to anyone thinking about a career in Exercise Science?
“Do it! If you have the slightest interest, you should do it!” he said. “Exercise science also provides a strong foundation to go on to other pathways as well. It’s rewarding and the knowledge gained by the end of the program is priceless.”