Regional health practitioners, such as Griffith-based exercise physiologist Jorja Waring-Bryant, play a vital role in bettering the community. Facing a familiar choice for those growing up rurally, Jorja knew if she wanted to pursue university study, moving away from home was her only option.
“My family is really important to me, and it’s always a goal to be close to them,” Jorja says.
“But having grown up in Griffith, seeing firsthand the need for health professionals – that was also a driving force behind my decision to work in a rural area.”
She says the self-belief instilled in her by the support from her closest family and friends – as well as the greater community – encouraged her to try university study.
“It really was a case of everyone being on your team. Everyone wanted to help in any way they could to get me over the line,” Jorja says.
“My parents – who didn’t attend university, but showed great resilience and great dedication to their chosen paths – certainly acted as role models, as did my teachers and other people in the community.
“Each of these little things added up to give me the courage to do it.”
Jorja’s journey to higher education wasn’t without barriers. She initially turned down early acceptance into her dream course so she could work full-time to save money to fund her studies.
After a year of working, she relocated to Canberra, four hours away from her family and home, to begin a Bachelor of Exercise Physiology and Rehabilitation at the University of Canberra (UC).
“It was a great experience and time of huge growth for myself. Studying in a field I’m so passionate about, but also making friends that became my family away from home,” Jorja says.
“The opportunities to learn at UC exceeded my expectations, especially having access to leading researchers in areas I was keen to learn more about.”
Knowing that she wanted to eventually work in a rural area, Jorja prepared in every way she could to pave the way for a smooth transition.
In her final year, she reached out to Kinetic Medicine, a Murrumbidgee-based allied health service, where she worked for her final placement.
“If other students need reassurance about working in a rural community, I recommend reaching out to professionals, to begin building that network ahead of moving to the area,” she says.
“Everyone was positive or willing to make the time for a phone call, or to catch up for coffee.”
Now a qualified exercise physiologist, Jorja – and her community – reap the rewards of her education. This year, she’s been working full time in the allied health industry and works with the local Country Education Foundation to ensure other young people living rurally see university as an option.
Her personal experience has shown “access” to education is much more than a fund or scholarship – it’s about the empowerment of young people, and equipping them with the intrinsic belief they are capable of attaining a higher education.
“Quite frankly, if it wasn’t for key people in my life who instilled a sense of self-belief in me, I likely wouldn’t have found my way to university,” Jorja says.
“This is how we build strong, functioning communities in rural Australia. Empower, upskill and support young people to pursue their passions, and hopefully one day, bring their skills and knowledge back to their communities.”
Original Article published by Kelly White on Riotact.