AITHM member Stephanie King is helping researchers shape and conduct health studies that are finely tuned to meet community needs, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health concerns, in Mount Isa.
“These projects have to be designed in a way where you are not doing research on people, you are doing it with them,” said Ms King, a Wannyi Garawa woman, who works as a research officer with the JCU Centre for Rural and Remote Health (CRRH).
“Studies must meet ethics and ensure participants cultural beliefs, their values and priorities, so they can be fully engaged and supportive of the research project. And they need to know you are walking alongside them throughout the research journey.”
Ms King’s commitment to working with the community extends far beyond her official job description. This year, the 35-year-old received the National Rural Health Alliance’s Friends of the Alliance annual Youth Award.
The accolade acknowledged both her workplace achievements and strong contribution to community organisations, including the Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service, and Mount Isa’s largest youth support group, Young People Ahead. She has secured a number of grants for film projects developed by young people experiencing relationship and identity challenges.
After leaving school in Year 11, Ms King tackled a diverse range of work roles, from feeding crocodiles in a Darwin wildlife park to coordinating an Indigenous employment centre program and working as a front-end loader operator in a mine – acquiring a number of TAFE qualifications along the way.
She is keen to both learn and impart knowledge.
“I want research projects to increase knowledge of participants’ experiences, so everyone can benefit from the information,” she said. “I am currently assisting with research around sleep needs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people, helping with focus groups and engaging people to talk about it.”
After joining CRRH as a student placement coordinator in 2006, she enjoyed introducing students pursuing health careers to local Indigenous culture. In 2010, she leveraged her TAFE track record to embark upon a Bachelor of Applied Sciences (Indigenous Community Development) with Curtin University, in order to further her own understanding of how to best meet the needs of her people.
“I wanted to do a course that complimented what I was doing in the community; looking at how we can deliver more effective, culturally appropriate services in a community setting – working from a grassroots level and up,” Ms King said.
This year, the busy mother of two commenced a Graduate Diploma of Research Methods (Tropical Health and Medicine) at JCU to build upon her foundation skills in research techniques and enrich a job that already brings a great deal of satisfaction.
“I love working with the community to create new knowledge. You are always learning something new. And being in a position to use my Indigenous ways of being and perspective to help shape and design the course of research is really rewarding,” she said.