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Taytum embraces Aboriginal heritage to help close healthcare gap

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Mater Education student Taytum Wiggs discovered her Aboriginal heritage at nine years old when her grandfather died. 

Since then, the D’Aguilar teenager has embraced her culture and plans to pursue a career in nursing and midwifery to work towards closing the healthcare gap. 

“Nan went digging into Pop’s family tree because we didn’t know much about his family when he passed away,” she said.

“We learned that he came from the Ngemba people in New South Wales and we think he was stolen.”

Although the family history discovery came too late for her grandfather, Taytum believes he’d be proud to be an Indigenous Australian. 

The 17-year-old is honoured to celebrate her Ngemba heritage as a finalist in the upcoming Queensland Training Awards North Coast regional final in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student of the Year category. 

“A year ago I wouldn’t believe you if you told me,” she said. “I’m excited about being a finalist for such a great award.”

The annual awards have showcased excellence in vocational education and training (VET) across a range of categories since 1962.  

The St Columban’s College student has graduated from Mater Education’s Vocational Education and Training in Schools (VETiS) program with a Certificate III in Health Services Assistance (HSA) at the end of June. 

The VETiS program counts towards the Queensland Certificate of Education and gives students in years 10, 11 and 12 the opportunity to gain nationally recognised qualifications while at school. 

Taytum is currently working as an Assistant in Nursing (AIN) at Caboolture Hospital and plans to continue working throughout her university studies. 

Taytum heard about the awards at a training day at Mater Education’s South Brisbane campus and discussed nominating with her school’s career counsellor. 

“It was a joint decision,” she said, “I told her I wanted to and she said ‘Let’s do it’.”

This NAIDOC Week (July 2-9), Mater Education is celebrating the astonishing history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with the theme, For Our Elders. 

Taytum believes NAIDOC Week is an important time to advocate to close the healthcare gap.

“In my culture, people have a lot of mistrust when it comes to healthcare. I see it all the time in the hospital,” she said.

Since Taytum uncovered her connection to the Ngemba Nation in Byrock, New South Wales, she has embraced it and continues to learn as much as she can. 

“I think my culture and traditions are really beautiful.”

“I do the Acknowledgement of Country and carry the flag at nearly every assembly at school.”

The young Ngemba woman chose to pursue a career in healthcare through the Mater Education VETiS program after she saw her older sister take part in the program. 

“I’ve loved the program. I was always stuck on what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to help people,” she said.

“I like talking to my patients and knowing I’ve made their day better.”

The Queensland Training Awards North Coast regional final will be held on Friday 28 July. 

Taytum will attend the awards with the support of her family, Mater Education Leader Educator Sue-Ellen Howard and friends from work. 

“There will be a gala dinner for the awards – I’m so excited!” Taytum said.

Mater Education congratulates Taytum on her nomination and wishes her the best of luck in the final.

Learn more about our VETiS program here.

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