Image 1: Top End Group Training (GTNT Group) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Apprentice/Trainee of the Year Finalists: Shenea Tipungwuti-Edwards (winner), Iesha Couzens (from Kinetic IT, runner up), Royce Ramsamy and Porsche Cahill. Image credit: GTNT awards night, taken by North Australia Media.
Menzies’ next generation of First Nations researchers are being recognised for their work across the Territory, with 4 young researchers listed as finalists for, or winners of, 2 major awards.
Proud Murrinh‐Patha and Arrernte woman, Jaylene Friel, won the 2023 Aurizon Indigenous Achievement Award at the Northern Territory Young Achiever Awards in April. She was recognised for her work supporting research translation with Menzies’ AIMhi Stay Strong team.
"Thank you to my team - all of the strong women and all strong men in my team, all my strong bloodline that's pumping through my blood right now. My ancestors, my whole family and everyone that has given me an opportunity to this point," said Jaylene.
Jaylene’s work includes helping to improve youth access to health and social care, which saw her co-lead the 2021 Menzies Youth Health Summit. The summit helped empower young people and provided a platform for young people to highlight the key health issues affecting them. Through Menzies’ traineeship programs, Jaylene graduated in 2022 with a Certificate II in Community Health Research and Certificate III in Business with the support of Menzies Biyamarr ma and Education and Training teams.
During her time at Menzies, Jaylene has been increasingly presenting Menzies’ research translation work. After winning the Indigenous Achievement Award, Jaylene went on to represent Menzies as a panellist on the Australian Institute of Family Studies’ Emerging Minds session later that month.
"Lore is our number one, not the systematic one that was bought here," she shared.
"We can't work around culture or our souls."
It’s been non-stop for Jaylene, with the Stay Strong team delivering digital mental health training in Nhulunbuy, Darwin and Alice Springs this year. The published author also contributed to the peer reviewed article, Feasibility and Acceptability of the Aboriginal and Islander Mental Health Initiative for Youth App: Nonrandomized Pilot With First Nations Young People. This research reports on the positive findings of the Aboriginal and Islander Mental Health Initiative for Youth (AIMhi-Y) app pilot study. Interviews with 30 young people in Darwin reported that they found the app easy to use, culturally relevant, useful and they experienced improvements in wellbeing following 4 weeks of supported app use.
Image 2: Menzies lead mental health researcher, Professor Tricia Nagel celebrates with Jaylene Friel, recipient of the 2023 Aurizon Indigenous Achievement Award at the Northern Territory Young Achiever Awards.
Menzies also saw 3 trainees recognised for their excellence at the Top End Group Training (GTNT Group) Awards ceremony in May. Shenea Tipungwuti-Edwards, Royce Ramsamy and Porsche Cahill were all recognised as finalists in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Apprentice/Trainee of the Year award, with Shenea Tipungwuti-Edwards announced as the overall winner. The trio completed their Certificate III in Laboratory Skills with the support of the Biyamarr ma team and the Menzies-Ramaciotti Centre, where Shenea also works.
Image 3: Shenea Tipungwuti-Edwards accepting her award as the Top End Group Training (GTNT Group) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Apprentice/Trainee of the Year. Image credit: GTNT awards night, taken by North Australia Media.
Shenea shared how health has always been an interest, which inspired her to pursue a health-based traineeship.
“I wanted to pursue a traineeship to gain more hands-on experience and exposure to various health disciplines. I’ve always been interested in health and microorganisms, and I’m grateful my traineeship gave me the opportunity to work with like-minded colleagues in the melioidosis team,” she said.
“My time in the lab gave me an insight into the impact of the bacteria on the body. Through my traineeship, I've been able to contribute to health promotion and community outreach efforts in addition to lab work. This has motivated me to grow my knowledge and study biomedical science at university.”
In addition to her Menzies-Ramaciotti Centre work, Shenea has been supporting another Menzies project, StreamlinED - Adolescent Health, through her active role.
Trainee of the Year finalist, Porsche Cahill is also part of the Youth Working Group, where her positive attitude and consideration for others make her a valuable part of the Menzies team. She’s also been announced as a finalist for the NT Training Awards – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander of the Year category, with the winner declared in September.
“I was curious about the role of scientists in the healthcare industry, which is what drew me to this career path,” Porsche said.
“This traineeship changed my perspective on healthcare and gave me valuable opportunities to travel and network with other healthcare professionals. I really value the welcoming environment and the relationships I’ve developed with colleagues.”
Fellow finalist Royce Ramsamy also acknowledged the accepting and supportive workplace and the friendships he’s developed during his gap year traineeship at Menzies.
"I gained new skills within a laboratory-based environment while also gaining community-based skills through volunteering opportunities. The quality of my training was superb, with supportive staff and trainers who were willing to help with any problems,” he said.
“My traineeship has provided me with a strong foundation to pursue my future path towards university.”
Royce said while he loves the lab, he's enjoying focusing on his work helping the Menzies’ Alcohol and Other Drugs team with their research this year.
Congratulations to Jaylene, Shenea, Porsche and Royce on their fantastic achievements so far, and we look forward to their continuing involvement at Menzies.
You can read more about the Menzies–Ramaciotti Centre on our website.