Mandurah midwife announced finalist for Pinjarra Aboriginal health efforts

Making changes: Caroline Nilson at the Murray District Aboriginal Association Community Centre in Pinjarra. Photo: Supplied.
Making changes: Caroline Nilson at the Murray District Aboriginal Association Community Centre in Pinjarra. Photo: Supplied.

A Mandurah academic and midwife has been recognised for her tireless efforts in improving Aboriginal health outcomes in Pinjarra.

Doctor Caroline Nilson, who works at Murdoch University, has been announced as a finalist in the Excellence in Aboriginal Health category for the Western Australia Nursing and Midwifery Excellence Awards.

Working with the Bindjareb women in Pinjarra, Dr Nilson has developed and implemented a holistic community and developed health and wellness intervention.

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Dr Nilson said she had worked with indigenous communities for most of her qualified years.

“It has a specific interest to me and I’m passionate about empowering others in health and wellness,” she said. 

Murdoch University’s head of nursing associate professor Cathy Fetherston said Dr Nilson was an important role model to all nurses.

The importance of this program is that the Bindjareb women have been front and centre in all aspects of the development of the program and in the dissemination of the outcomes achieved from their participation in the program

She said Dr Nilson’s “innovative thinking, phenomenal work ethic and inclusiveness” demonstrated a path for those wishing to work in assisting Aboriginal communities to achieve change in their health outcomes.

Dr Nilson said she started a cooking program in the Bindjareb community for children aged 11 and 12, called the Deadly Koolinga Chef program.

“This program aimed to develop knowledge of shopping for and preparing healthy nutritious meals, which once prepared were then taken home to the family to eat,” she said.

“This also had the effect of children passing their knowledge and enthusiasm for what they had learnt and produced onto their families.”

The success of the program prompted the women of the Bindjareb community to ask Dr Nilson to help find ways to address the prevalence of health issues in their families.

Together they developed the Bindjareb Yorgas Health Program, a wellness intervention that included nutrition and cooking classes, group exercise classes, health ‘yarning’ and a community vegetable garden.

“The importance of this program is that the Bindjareb women have been front and centre in all aspects of the development of the program and in the dissemination of the outcomes achieved from their participation in the program,” Dr Nilson said.

Dr Nilson has won multiple awards for teaching over her career, including a Citation for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council and Murdoch University Vice Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching, and Enhancing Learning.

A total of 29 of Western Australia's nurses and midwives have been chosen as finalists for the 2018 WA Nursing and Midwifery Excellence Awards, which will be announced on May 12.