Maria Nickels

Maria Nickels

A career in health research and midwifery

Below is an inspirational story written by Maria Nickels, a Noongar woman who is an Aboriginal Health Worker and is now living in Darwin with her family.

Arriving in Darwin in the immediate post-cyclone Tracey years, I could never have imagined what the future held. I am a Noongar woman originally from Northam in Western Australia’s wheat belt area, was in my early 20’s and working as a hairdresser, and a career in health research and midwifery was the last thing on my mind.

Thirty years on, I am a fully trained Aboriginal Health Worker and employed with the Northern Territory Government - Department of Health and Families – Midwifery Group Practice. I am also a wife, mother and grandmother and have well and truly made Darwin my home.

I worked for 23 years as a hairdresser in Darwin and it did me well, it’s a good profession, but I always wanted to do something to help my people.

In 1997 I completed an Aboriginal Health Worker course and worked in an Aboriginal Health Service for the next ten years in a variety of different roles. I developed an increasing interest in women’s health and eventually coordinated the Women’s Health Unit within the organization. I discovered I had a passion for women’s health – absolutely loved it.

By 2007 I was ready for a change and was approached by Menzies School of Health Research to join Service Systems and Society Division as an Indigenous Project Officer, I jumped at the chance and within a period of 2 years I worked on several projects in women’s health and chronic kidney disease.

Now I am working with the Department in the Midwifery Group Practice. Here we work alongside midwives to improve continuity of care for women from remote communities when they transfer to and from urban centres for antenatal care or birth. Also in February 2010 I commenced study in the Batchelor of midwifery through The Australian Catholic University in Brisbane. This study is offered remotely for the first, so we see ourselves as the “trail Blazers”, leading the way for indigenous midwives.

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