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TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga course empowering Indigenous locals to chase careers in health

TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga

TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga course empowering Indigenous locals to chase careers in health

Caption: MAKING A DIFFERENCE: TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga student Jade Tapfield is eyeing a career as a nurse in remote Aboriginal communities.

12 May 2024

TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga is arming the local Aboriginal community with the skills and experience to help “heal their mob” amid the return of a specially tailored healthcare course.


The Certificate IV in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Healthcare Practice, which hasn’t run since for a number of years at TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga, aims to bolster the number of Aboriginal health practitioners in the community.

Life expectancy for Aboriginal people in NSW is about nine years less for males and 7.5 years less for females compared to the non-Aboriginal population, while the burden of disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is 2.3 times that of non-Indigenous Australians.

The course, which commenced last month, has welcomed 23 aspiring Aboriginal health practitioners, the majority staff from Murrumbidgee Local Health District (MLHD) looking to expand into an in-demand new role.

Between 2011 and 2021, the number of First Nations people aged 15 and over employed in health-related occupations nationwide increased from about 8,800 to about 16,700 people.

TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga teacher Bec Willis, a proud Wonnarua woman with extensive experience in Aboriginal health, said the return of the course locally would help build a workforce committed to improving Aboriginal health outcomes and delivering culturally safe care.

“It’s important we have Aboriginal people working in health who know their communities and know what’s culturally appropriate,” Ms Willis said.

“Aboriginal patients have unique health challenges and Aboriginal health practitioners have a way of working with their mob that non-Aboriginal people could never know.

“The demand for TAFE NSW Aboriginal health graduates is very strong and continues to grow.”

Ms Willis said the 18-month course included units in chronic and complex conditions, clinical assessments, infection control and more, with students learning hands-on skills in TAFE NSW Wagga Wagga’s simulated nursing labs and at Wagga Base Hospital.

One of the MLHD staff members to undertake the course is Wiradjuri-Gamilaraay woman Jade Tapfield, 18. Ms Tapfield currently works as an assistant-in-nursing at the Wagga Base Hospital renal ward and enrolled in the course to help her move closer to her dream of working as a nurse in remote Aboriginal communities.

“As a lighter-skinned Aboriginal, it’s important I stand up for others in my position who might feel out of community, and that includes the lighter-skinned Aboriginal patients at the hospital,” she said. “I see firsthand at the hospital how badly my people need help and support and it’s critical that help is delivered by an Aboriginal person.

“What drives me is knowing the skills I learn at TAFE NSW will help me serve in remote Aboriginal communities, places where the nearest pharmacy is hours away.

“My TAFE NSW teacher Bec has been hugely supportive, and is so passionate and knowledgeable.”

Media contact: Dan Johns, TAFE NSW Communications Specialist,, 0477 722 428