Stephanie Blyth is a Noongar woman from the Galamaia Nation in southwest WA born and grew up in Launceston, Tasmania. Stephanie has four siblings, and she is the first in her family to go to university. In 2013 Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Health Science/Bachelor of Applied Science (Chiropractic). She is now working as a registered chiropractor in Ballarat, Victoria.
Here is her story:
“Much of what I learnt about my Galamaia heritage is from stories passed down to me from my relatives. In her own quiet way, my great grandmother was quite an activist. She was instrumental in changing the workplace culture to recognise Aboriginal peoples’ right to work alongside other races. Her cousin played a large part in enabling Aboriginal people to cast votes in the WA State elections. I am proud that my ancestors helped shape various aspects of Australia’s culture. Knowing what a success my great grandmother made of her life after living a difficult childhood, and against all odds, instilled in me that anything is possible regardless of your upbringing, and there are no excuses for not succeeding in life.
I chose to be a chiropractor because I knew I wanted to be a health care practitioner that helps prevent disease and ill health. When I studied health in Year 12, it didn’t make sense to me why as a nation, we spend so much time, money and effort in treating conditions that are easily preventable by living a healthy lifestyle and keeping our nervous systems healthy. I knew that chiropractors were primary care practitioners who integrate many aspects of health care to provide a high standard and broad range of healthcare and advice. I’d also seen many positive results for myself and my family in reducing pain and illness under chiropractic care.
I didn’t think I would get the grades to study chiropractic in high school, so I didn’t apply for it. Instead, I applied for and was accepted into exercise science. Not convinced exercise science was what I wanted to study, I decided to take some time off and travel within Australia, basing myself in Port Hedland for a large portion of this time and overseas, predominantly in Europe and the UK. Eventually, I decided I definitely wanted to become a chiropractor. I didn’t study chemistry in Year 12 (a prerequisite subject), so I took a bridging course and applied for chiropractic at three universities. I supported my application with letters from myself and my chiropractor explaining my passion for the profession and why I desire to study it. Fortunately, Melbourne was my first preference and the first offer I received, so I was ecstatic, as were my supportive family.
The most challenging thing whilst studying is finding balance; finding a balance between study, work, sporting life and social life. Financial stresses and being away from family were additional stresses whilst studying, but the biggest stressors were the study itself due to the high demand of the course. I got better at studying and managing the stress load each year, particularly at exam time. I worked several jobs throughout my five years of study, sometimes juggling three jobs at a time, but I always made time to study. Sometimes this meant making sacrifices in sporting and social life, although I still incorporated them into my life to some degree to maintain a healthy work/life balance. I overcame the difficulties with good time management, sacrifices and a few cries to my dear sister! Although I didn’t have family in the same state as me, I’m fortunate enough to know they were always only a phone call away if I needed them! One of the biggest supports I had in my early years of university was the free tutoring I received due to being an Aboriginal person. To this day, I am still appreciative of that support, as I know it helped me immensely in gaining a better understanding of the course material.
My friends and family were all supportive of my studies and very proud of me, which is nice, and I was appreciative of their positive attitude. I was the first of 5 children in my family to attend university, so I think they were just pleased I was going at all!! It was comforting knowing they were proud of me and always interested in how I was getting on, even if they couldn’t financially support me or physically be there with me.
What I love about being a chiropractor is the results that it gets! It is very rewarding to make positive changes to peoples’ lives. I also enjoy empowering my patients with the knowledge to live long, happy, and healthy lives.
To people thinking about a career in chiropractic, I’d say that if you’re willing to put in 5 hard years at university and you’re doing it for the right reasons, then just do it because it is extremely worthwhile. It is a very rewarding career as you can make people feel better without intervention.
In the future, I hope I’ll be happily practising chiropractic with a child or two! My partner and I moved to Ballarat this year as I was offered a position too good to refuse, and we’re both happy living in this community, so we may still be here. But who knows what the next five years will bring! Of course, I will still want to work, at least part-time, but I know how important it is for children to have good family values, so I think once again I will have to find a balance between fun, family and work!”