Griffith University: New director to helm First Peoples Health Unit

Aboriginal scholar and podiatrist Professor James Charles has been appointed Director of Griffith University’s First Peoples Health Unit (FPHU).

Having devoted his career to Aboriginal foot health and education, Professor Charles started at Griffith this week from Deakin University.

A Kaurna man from Adelaide, Professor Charles said he was “incredibly excited” to take the reins as Director.

“There’s a sense of genuine enthusiasm at Griffith around the FPHU and its significant contribution in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health within Griffith and more broadly in the tertiary sector,” Professor Charles said.

“I’ve got a lot of energy and am really passionate, so I’m looking forward to bringing that to this role and building on the success of the FPHU even further.”

The FPHU provides high level leadership and strategic direction on First Peoples’ health in the areas of learning and teaching, research and engagement, embedding First Peoples’ knowledge to contribute towards closing the gap in health outcomes.

As FPHU Director Professor Charles will look to grow the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce and ensure the success of students throughout their study journey and into the workplace.

“A lot of people are aware of cultural competence frameworks, but we need more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in health roles to provide an adequate level of cultural knowledge and understanding to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and their communities,” he said.

“It’s about attracting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, supporting them on their journey and not only seeing them complete their degree, but go on to succeed in their career.”

Professor Charles will continue to strengthen the FPHU’s community ties.

“I want to be consultative and uniting,” he said.

“It is imperative that we understand the health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and their communities and deliver hands on solutions that address those challenges.”

“It’s about bringing people together and working together with them on whatever the project may be.”

Throughout his career, Professor Charles has worked in and with Aboriginal communities. At a policy level, he has recently worked with Diabetes Feet Australia to assist in the development of their new clinical guidelines, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander considerations for the first time.

“Professor Charles brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience in Aboriginal health through his work in community, clinical and research settings,” Professor Shannon said.

“In its six years of operation, the FPHU has vastly contributed to positive outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.”

“We are looking forward to Professor Charles leading the FPHU in its continued success.”

Acting Pro Vice Chancellor (Health) Professor Analise O’Donovan said Professor Charles had spent his career immersed in helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and had previously been President of Indigenous Allied Health Australia and Chair of the Indigenous Allied Health Australia Network.

“Professor Charles was the first Aboriginal person to receive a Master of Podiatry and the first Aboriginal Podiatrist to receive a PhD,” Professor O’Donovan said.

“He received the National NAIDOC Scholar of the Year award in 2017 for his teaching, research and work in the Aboriginal community.

“We welcome Professor Charles as Director of the FPHU and look forward to drawing on his experience and knowledge.”

Professor Charles started his new post this week, albeit remotely from Melbourne due to border restrictions until he can relocate to the Gold Coast.