Matthew West – Journey into Podiatry

Matthew West is a Wiradjuri man, currently living and working on the central coast of NSW. Matthew’s family comes from Wellington NSW and originally he and his younger brother and sister went to school at Fairfield, Sydney NSW. Eventually Matthew moved to the Central coast where he started in Year 7 and went through to Year 12.

Following high school, Matthew went to the University of Newcastle and commenced his degree in Podiatry. He is the first Aboriginal person to graduate from the University of Newcastle with this degree. In 2013, Matthew won the national ‘Future Leader in Indigenous Allied Health Award’ for being an inspirational role model for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and for his contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and health.

This is his story…

“I graduated from Newcastle University with a Bachelor of Podiatry in 2013. I was looking very seriously at health in my final year of high school but wasn’t sure what profession would be a good fit for me. With a little research I decided on to pursue allied health, but was still a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of professions this covers. As it happened I had a problem requiring the intervention of a podiatrist, I found it a very pleasant experience and haven’t looked back.

I completed high school and went straight into university. I had the support of my family but also my community. Everyone in my life thought my chosen course of study is great. The Wollutuka institute and Elenore Duncan medical center have also been really amazing in supporting me throughout my degree.

University is a challenge, as everything worth doing is. I think as Indigenous students we tend to put more pressure on ourselves to succeed and this can make us feel that every challenge is a failure instead of an opportunity to continue our learning. I found that having the right attitude was of the most benefit to me… Being aware that I wasn’t the only person in my class who struggled with an assignment or found a topic particularly difficult to grasp.

I currently work in the public health care system and the thing I love most is healing a wound and as a result saving a limb.

If you are an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person thinking about a career in podiatry, I say DO IT!!!! People think that podiatry is not for them because they think it’s just all about feet, but it’s so complex and interesting and you get to help your community everyday. Although I believe anyone thinking of pursuing a job in health should do so, because you cannot choose wrong.

At the moment I go to work everyday and continue to learn… In 5 years’ time I would have liked to have learned enough to aid in health reform at a higher level, to better provide health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”