Investing in Indigenous-led health care

18 Dec 2019

The University of Queensland has appointed an Associate Dean (Indigenous Engagement) to lead reconciliation in the Faculty of Medicine.

In her first four weeks on the job, proud Kamilaroi and Kooma woman Associate Professor Maree Toombs has laid important groundwork in the Faculty’s Indigenous Health Strategy.

Drawing on the UQ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy, a key focus of this role will be to increase the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples enrolled or employed at UQ.

“Having Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples working across all disciplines of medicine shows that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can do anything in this space,” Dr Toombs said.

“To have culturally appropriate doctors will make a substantial difference to health outcomes for Indigenous peoples.

“There shouldn’t be a gap in health between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and non-Indigenous peoples – building a workforce that has more of us in it will help address these shortfalls.”

Developing a greater sense of community, safety and cultural humility within the Faculty will be a priority under Dr Toombs’ leadership.

“Our focus will be to shift and improve understandings of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and how they apply to the health system,” she said.

 “By prioritising cultural humility, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff will start to feel safe and promote UQ as the University of choice to their communities.

“It also gives non-Indigenous staff the tools to work in this space, and to be more culturally competent in other spaces too.”

Executive Dean Professor Geoff McColl said he was thrilled to welcome Associate Professor Toombs to the leadership role.

“Maree has extensive knowledge and expertise in embedding Indigenous perspectives into the curriculum and research that will prove crucial to establishing an Indigenous Health Strategy,” Professor McColl said.

“We need to do more to foster leaders in health care who are members of our diverse communities.

“Maree’s valued advice and assistance will help guide us in all matters relevant to Indigenous Engagement.”

It’s a job she is uniquely qualified for as the first Indigenous Australian to graduate with a PhD from the University of Southern Queensland.

Dr Toombs’ research has spanned Indigenous Australians’ mental health, barriers to tertiary education and acute respiratory illnesses in children.

Pro Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Engagement) Professor Bronwyn Fredericks said Dr Toombs’ appointment would strengthen reconciliation at UQ and beyond.

“I very much look forward to working with Dr Toombs, and with the Faculty of Medicine going forward,” Professor Fredericks said.

“I’m delighted with Maree’s appointment and know that her leadership and changes planned within the Faculty will contribute to the larger UQ Indigenous agenda that will produce even greater outcomes.”

Media: Faculty of Medicine Communications,, +61 7 3365 5118, +61 436 368 746.