Dr Fergie was amongst 106 Australians announced as recipients of a 2016 Churchill Fellowship. The fellowships provide an opportunity for recipients to travel overseas to conduct research in their chosen field that is not readily available in Australia.
Through the fellowship, Dr Fergie will be able to spend several weeks travelling to Finland, England, Canada, Hawaii and New Zealand in the second half of 2017, meeting with Indigenous elders, researchers, academics and health service providers.
“I hope to visit these Indigenous Nations to find out the relationship between their intergenerational trauma through colonisation and culture and how they have managed to rejuvenate a sense of belonging and identity within their communities, because we know the health disparities are just huge in all Indigenous Nations,” Dr Fergie said.
“I see a need to build relationships between the Indigenous communities I will visit and the Australian Indigenous community. We need to share our cultural ways and learn from each other and by doing so we can overcome the barriers of geographical isolation.”
Dr Fergie completed her PhD thesis on post-natal depression among Victorian Aboriginal women and in October became the second person to graduate from ACU’s Indigenous Staff Research Scholarships program.
“If you have a passion for our own people and you’ve seen the needs out there, this passion should be expressed in a place of influence. I think academia is an important place for this work of advocacy,” Dr Fergie said.
ACU Provost Professor Pauline Nugent said she was very pleased to see Dr Fergie complete her PhD at ACU this year and to see new doors opening to progress her work.
“I congratulate Dr Fergie on her achievements and on being awarded a Churchill Fellowship to further her important work around the globe,” Professor Nugent said.
“It is wonderful to see that ACU’s support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander academics and their research is helping to make a real difference within Indigenous communities.”
ACU was one of the first universities in Australia to introduce staff scholarships in 2010, to facilitate valued Indigenous contributions to learning, research and community engagement.
“I’m very thankful to ACU because they gave me the opportunity to do this PhD,” Dr Fergie said.
“Not only that but they’ve given me the opportunity to teach Aboriginal health, which I think is really important in terms of ensuring our health workers are culturally sensitive to Aboriginal people and their needs.”
“It’s really important for us to have Indigenous researchers because we have a different world view to western knowledge,” Dr Fergie said.
Dr Fergie will be presented with her Churchill Fellowship at a ceremony at Government House in Melbourne in January.