Brooke Coleman-Oakes – My Journey into Allied Health

Can you tell us about your background?

I am Brooke Coleman-Oakes, and I am a Kokatha Woman from the Far West Coast of South Australia, Ceduna. I visit Country as often as possible to connect to the land and culture. I grew up in Adelaide, South Australia, on Kaurna country and am currently living and working on Bundjalung country in Gold Coast, Queensland.

What allied health profession have you chosen and why?

I studied a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy at the University of South Australia. At birth, doctors discovered I had a dislocated hip, and as a result, I spent the first three months in a hip brace to secure the ball and socket joint; failure to wear the brace would have resulted in a lifelong limp. As a result of this treatment, I have been fortunate enough to enjoy a lifetime of health and fitness. In high school, I decided to centre my career around helping, supporting, and inspiring others to reach their health and fitness goals and live an optimal life through their perception of reality.

I developed an interest in Anatomy and Physiology through gaining a Certificate lV in Fitness and Health while completing my SACE. I am passionate about helping others improve their quality of life, having witnessed first-hand the effects of numerous family members suffering chronic health conditions such as diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis, cancer and pneumonia. Using the qualifications from my studies, I desire to make a positive impact on people’s lives by educating others about healthy lifestyle choices to help prevent the risk of chronic health conditions.

My interest in studying Occupational Therapy derived from the many wide-ranging opportunities and pathways in which the occupation provides. My primary interest in being an Occupational Therapist is through educating women and children to live optimally through cultivating power and belief from within to feel comfortable in the world. I have begun my journey as a business owner and currently work with clients who have sustained a neurological condition or disability who require support and assistance in achieving everyday activities through promoting a better quality of life.

How would you describe your carer journey?

Wirringka Student Services unit at UniSA was a large contributor to my success at University through having a safe space to attend before and after classes to interact with other like-minded indigenous students, support one another and opportunity to have a quiet space to study. Dylan Hunter, Aboriginal student engagement officer, was constantly supported with any study queries I had throughout University. I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to be involved in a culturally safe and inclusive space at University. I wouldn’t be where I am today in my studies if it wasn’t for the help of everyone at Wirringka Student Services.

Why is it important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to work in your profession?

I am passionate about contributing to making an impact on improving the Aboriginal health care system, specifically with children. I am passionate about helping prevent conditions, health care problems, and mental health by keeping active and occupied through a healthy life. I honour each individual client as worthy of my services as I respect and uphold cultural practices, including ways of knowing, being and doing. This is achieved and practised through a strength-based approach and viewing clients as equal and whole as a person, regardless of their external factors influencing their healthcare.

I value the theoretical knowledge attained from my studies and cultural knowledge acquired from IAHA experiences to provide quality holistic health care into my practice as an Occupational Therapist.

What did your support network think about you going to uni and studying your profession?

My family were incredibly proud and supportive of my decision to attend University. I consider myself fortunate to come from a supportive and stable family; however, regardless of your situation, act on it if you have the drive and belief to take a leap into a new path. You will find supportive people who align with your vision and goals to achieve your dreams. Making decisions for yourself is the best advice I can provide to anyone. The value you see in your decision is more important than the value external factors such as people, environments, and situations place on you. Education and knowledge are some of the most important skills you can have in life.

What do you love most about your profession?

I thoroughly enjoy working independently as an Aboriginal woman to provide knowledgeable holistic health care to clients. I uphold values of connection, communication, and acceptance through my practices. I am passionate about helping children, as the younger generation will establish sustainable foundational lifestyle habits leading to optimal living. I focus heavily on children’s mental wellbeing and sense of self within the world. I often see children with disabilities feel stigma within their communities and as an outsider within the world. I enjoy building a strong identity and sense of self for children through fostering a positive environment where they feel safe and secure to express themselves freely. Additionally, I enjoy educating parents on lifestyle changes such as dietary choices, sleep, movement, mental health to provide the best care to their children.

Seeing breakthroughs and results with clients through building trusting relationships is my why behind my holistic Occupational Therapist practice.

What role has IAHA played in supporting your journey?

IAHA has been a supporting contributor to my success and completing my degree throughout my studies. Since 2016 I have been honoured to be acknowledged for my leadership skills by being invited by Wirringka Student Services to attend the annual IAHA Conference (Canberra 2016, Perth 2017, Sydney 2018, Darwin 2019, Online 2020 – 2021). I have used this opportunity to network with other upcoming Allied Health Professionals whilst gaining a broader and deeper understanding of various Allied Health Disciplines. Furthermore, the University of South Australia invited me to be a keynote speaker at the Aboriginal Student Pathways Conference to talk to Indigenous, high school students about my university journey. As a result, I spoke to an audience of high school students during the transitional phase of their future endeavours post-high school.

What would you say to a person who is thinking about a career in your chosen profession?

My advice to others interested in journeying into the allied health field is establishing your ‘why’ statement around your decision. This is a core rooted belief statement to sustain accountability to your goal and dreams. It promotes drive, accountability and discipline, particularly when you feel like deriving from your goals. Additionally, listen to your heart and do not doubt your ability to achieve greatness. I remember finishing high school and taking the leap into University, taking the leap to

transfer degrees, taking the leap to travel to my first IAHA conference, taking the leap to move interstate. I chose to trust my belief in myself to take these leaps with the inner knowing to be where I am today. Do not allow fear of the unknown to hold you back. If I can be where I am today to achieve my high school goals, there is absolutely no reason why you cannot achieve yours either. Say yes to opportunities and trust that you are capable of more.

What are your plans for the future?

In the next ten years, my goal is to build on my business, Enlightened Living Co and create a Health and Wellness Hub, inclusive of all people to improve their quality of life. I am educating clients on the importance of the variety of health and wellbeing elements through the positive benefits of healthy eating as a life force to fuel day to day activity, a healthy lifestyle through movement, self-belief, and self-love. Nutritional classes and the cooking of various food groups will be an integral base of my healthy living philosophy that will encompass the overall programme.