This NAIDOC Week, we’d love to introduce you to Dr Simone Nalatu, our Principal Lead – First Nations Communities who has worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities much of her life. First in her PhD work, then with Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC, pronounced, quaik). Hailing from a Fijian family, Simone knows a thing or two about of the role of culture, ceremony, tradition and values.
Simone’s PhD was focused on understanding the health and wellbeing factors influencing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in the period immediately following childbirth. What she found was universal: that women everywhere are driven by deep instincts to mother first—often even at the expense of their own health and wellbeing. That regardless of cultural or social-economic factors, happy mum, generally means happy baby.
What started out as a PhD journey to develop supports for women in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, turned into more of an exercise in deep listening and learning.
“My PhD taught me about the importance of understanding lived experience before all else,” says Simone.
“We must intimately understand a problem or an issue first before we can develop population-level solutions and I’ve used these principles in my work and life every day since.”
Her principles around deep understanding also hold true in relation to the theme of NAIDOC Week this year—Always Was, Always Will Be. Simone says recognition that distinctly different populations can respectfully co-exist is key.
“The heterogeneous nature of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies is vast and acknowledging this has helped me to understand the more I learn, the more I don’t know.”
“This vastness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and protocols fascinates and inspires me.”
When asked what others can do to be more informed of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples relationship with this land, Simone was quick to say it is important for all of us to be informed: that information precedes understanding.
“Seek new information. NAIDIOC Week is appropriate to celebrate but it’s not the only time we should expand our knowledge.”
Simone presents a beautiful yet simple question …
“What is one thing I can do this year to better understand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture?”
“Then extend it to other areas in your life—for example, what is one thing I can do for my physical health this year?”
“When you break it down to one thing—simple steps—complex challenges can seem far more achievable.”
Always Was, Always Will Be.