Kylie Stothers (nee Wright) is a Jawoyn woman born and raised in Katherine, Northern Territory. She is a social worker and the Deputy Chairperson of Indigenous Allied Health Australia, the national peak body representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander allied health professionals and students. Kylie is married to Simon and has two children, Kirrah and Thomas.
In 1995 Kylie packed her bags after finishing school and moved from Katherine to Darwin to start her social work degree at Northern Territory University, now known as Charles Darwin University.
“It was interesting because when I started, social work tended to attract more mature age students,” said Kylie. “I was one of only three students who started straight from school. Fortunately there were four Aboriginal people in my course, all of whom were older than me and they kept me on track. All four of us went through our course and graduated together, supporting each other and keeping each other motivated. It really helped to keep me focused.”
“Being an Aboriginal person studying social work, there were many layers I had to work through,” said Kylie. “Learning about the theory of the impact of history and policies on the social welfare of Aboriginal people is different when you have lived through it. It took a lot of self-reflection and I had to work through my feelings and the impact of social work theory on me, my family and my community. Having a strong support network was absolutely essential. ”
In 1999 Kylie was one of the first Aboriginal cadets to graduate in the Northern Territory. “I got through the first 3 years of study with the assistance of Abstudy and working in the holidays, but it was tough and I thought I might have to drop out so that I could support myself,” said Kylie. “But in my fourth year I got a cadetship with the NT Government which meant that I had a living allowance, the support of a fantastic mentor and work experience.”
“The cadetship gave me purpose and I knew that I would have a job at the end of my studies,” said Kylie. “And within one week of finishing my studies I was working fulltime at Royal Darwin Hospital.”
Kylie spent the next 14 years working throughout the Northern Territory in the areas of child protection, hospitals and Aboriginal community controlled health services, moving back to her home town of Katherine in 2004. She currently works as a Lecturer with the Centre for Remote Health in the Katherine Office. She is passionate about improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing and has a specific interest in child and maternal health, social determinants of health, health promotion and workforce issues, particularly in remote Australia.
“I love being a social worker because I get to meet so many interesting characters,” said Kylie. “At times you work with people in difficult situations when they are at their most vulnerable, but the strength and resilience that exists out there is inspiring.”
“A career in social work is never boring, every case is different,” said Kylie. “It’s challenging at times but it feels so good when you can make a positive difference in a person’s life, and in their family and community.”
“Being a social worker in a remote community is very rewarding,” said Kylie. “Often a health professional learns skills at Uni that they never use… Working remotely can challenge you professionally and extends your scope of practice so that you are using skills that you may not within an urban context.”
“There is also a strong sense of interdisciplinary collaboration when you live and work remote,” said Kylie. “The strong relationships that are built between health professionals are both enlightening and rewarding. Everyone seems more open and willing to share their professional skills and knowledge which leads to greater respect for each other’s unique professional lens.”
“Don’t get me wrong, working in a remote location has its challenges,” said Kylie. “The high turnover of staff and the fly in fly out nature of some health professions can lead to professional isolation at times. I set up an informal network for all social workers in Katherine so that no matter where you work or how long you’ve been here you can access support. It’s sometimes disappointing when you put in so much effort to support staff and then they leave… But that’s the nature of the remote working life I guess.”
“I appreciate that we now have technology that allows us to more easily communicate with each other and access professional development,” said Kylie. “But we still need to advocate for more allied health focused professional development as often nurses, doctors and Aboriginal Health Workers are the main focus.”
“Allied health professionals are essential members of the healthcare team, and I do feel valued working remote,” said Kylie. “But we still need more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids to choose careers in allied health because there are so many ways to make a difference in their own lives and in the lives of their communities. It’s important that they can think outside the square and make informed choices.”
For more information on careers in allied health and how you can positively impact on the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, please visit www.iaha.com.au.