Julie Brimblecombe

“Working with Indigenous communities: a part of the process of reconciliation”

Associate Professor Julie Brimblecombe draws on a powerful experience from the early days of her academic career to highlight the importance of working with and for Indigenous communities. Following a decade abroad in the Solomon Islands where she worked with the Ministry of Health and the local health workforce led by Solomon Islander people, Julie returned to the Milingimbi community off the coast of Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, where she began her work as a public health nutritionist a decade earlier

Upon returning and sharing photos of her time away, local community members immediately observed that the people of the Solomon Islands were recognised for their status as health professionals and yearned for the same kind of independence and support. For Julie, this was another stark reminder that when working with Indigenous communities, the local experiences, capabilities and governance structures were critical to understanding and improving nutritional practices. She also highlights that “time and immersion and opportunity to form relationships with people to learn language” is a vital element of knowledge exchange and moreover, helps foster reconciliation.

As a non-Indigenous researcher, Associate Professor Brimblecombe is all too aware that research in this context is a two-way process. Therefore, an enduring priority of her research approach over the years has been to involve Indigenous people, particularly key people in the community, in the conceptualisation and design of the projects: “this leads to not only better outcomes for the research but more so, for the community.”

In the relatively short time Julie has been at Monash, she has felt extremely supported by her Department to pursue her ideas and in fact, has been able to bring across her entire research program and contacts to Monash. She also notes the strong links between the research that she is working on and aims of the broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Framework which grounds much of her thinking. Julie is excited about attracting and nurturing a generation of Indigenous nutritionists, including recognising capability from within Indigenous communities, and identifies the opportunity that the William Cooper Institute presents to galvanise and connect individual pockets of Indigenous research at Monash to a wider purpose and agenda.

Associate Professor Julie Brimblecombe,
Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food - Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences