La Trobe University researchers will investigate how best to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to attain higher qualifications in allied health fields such as audiology, podiatry or physiotherapy.
Dr Andrea Simpson of the School of Allied Health, Human Services and Sport will lead the project focused on finding strategies to increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander allied health workers moving from vocational qualifications onto degrees.
Employed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are currently 1.5 times more likely than non-Indigenous people to work in the health and social assistance sector. However, those jobs held by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are largely VET-level roles and among the lowest paid in roles in Australia, Dr Simpson said.
“When you compare these roles to their university-qualified counterparts, the pay and the status gaps are huge,” said Dr Simpson, who has been awarded a fellowship by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) to carry out the research.
Dr Simpson said traditional pathways into university courses in allied health can be competitive and based on academic achievement, while alternative pathways can be complex and time-consuming, which may place Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at a disadvantage when applying.
“My research aims to find out ways of increasing the accessibility of allied health degrees for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Dr Simpson said.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are 2.3 times more likely to become ill than other Australians, Head of the School of Allied Health, Human Services and Sport Professor Russell Hoye said.
“A vital part of improving this is to increase the workforce of people who can provide care with the appropriate cultural knowledge and sensitivity.”
Dr Simpson’s fellowship is one of six funded by the Department of Education under the National Priorities Pool (MPP) Program.