Meet Kiya, a rising star shining a light on Aboriginal kids’ health

2 May 2023 | Expected time to read: 5 minutes

Kiya Shipley is part of a talented new generation of Aboriginal Health Workers, bringing vital cultural knowledge with them. Driven to reduce health inequities Aboriginal kids face, Kiya will also soon be the first in her family to attain a Masters degree! 

A passion was sparked for Kiya while studying nursing after high school. She went to work with an Aboriginal Health Service in Western Sydney, helping new First Nations parents support their newborn babies’ health.  

For the proud Kamilaroi and Yorta Yorta woman from Mt Druitt, the experience was life-changing. Seeing the positive difference she could make set her on a path to a career helping First Nations kids get every chance to be healthy and strong, right from birth.  

“The best part of the job was helping the bubs thrive and the parents be the best they could be,” she recalls. 

While Kiya is still in her early career, this fast-rising changemaker has been selected to be an Aboriginal Population Health Trainee (APHTI) with Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network (SCHN). The program, supported by generous Sydney Children’s Hospitals Foundation supporters like you, aims to improve the health of Aboriginal people in NSW - exactly what Kiya wants to do! 

“Aboriginal children are far more likely to experience health problems and have a higher mortality rate, which is just really sad,” says Kiya.  

“It’s so important that Aboriginal people are part of the health system, working to ensure the best outcomes for sick kids and First Nations families, who may have lost trust because of things that have happened in the past.” 

Kiya herself has spent much of her career on the frontline as an Aboriginal Health Worker, advocating for and supporting culturally respectful and inclusive care at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and other services. 

Now, as a Health Trainee, she gets to take a big picture approach to health system improvement. On finishing her traineeship, she will have completed multiple work placements in health services where she can learn professional skills and apply her cultural knowledge to help solve a range of health challenges. This could include helping find new ways to train and employ more Aboriginal health workers, discovering how to optimise the health of First Nations kids from birth or making the hospitals more welcoming to their families. 

“A lot of my work involves having that Aboriginal cultural lens on things, that connection with my community and giving that perspective to help adapt health programs so they are more culturally sensitive and welcoming for Aboriginal people,” she explains. 

The traineeship is varied and fascinating. One day, Kiya will be interviewing Aboriginal families and health workers to capture their experiences to help change things and create a more culturally safe environment across SCHN. 

The next, she could be creating education materials to help GPs bust vaccination myths and encourage uptake of the influenza shot in Aboriginal communities.

It’s helping overcome cultural health challenges like this that motivates Kiya to make the most of her traineeship - and she can’t wait to see what’s ahead. “Once I complete my Master’s, I’d love to be in a position where I can help develop health programs and policies that support Aboriginal kids and health workers,” she says. 

And now, as National Reconciliation Week (27 May – 3 June) approaches with the theme ‘Be a voice for generations’, Kiya is proud to speak up – and to be helping lead the way with SCHN to create a more just, equitable health system.  

“I’m really excited about the opportunities ahead to do something extraordinary and help all sick kids, no matter where, no matter what,” she says. 

“I also know how important it has been for me to have Aboriginal role models in my life in positions like this traineeship, so I’m happy to be that for others,” she says. “Aboriginal children need to grow up and see they can have opportunities and pathways to succeed in life. 

“I’m so passionate about my people and their health.” 

 

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