Sexual Health from an Indigenous Perspective
Professor Gracelyn Smallwood
Prof. Smallwood, a Professor of Nursing and Midwifery at Central Queensland University lead an inspiring session, capturing the audience’s attention not only with her outstanding achievements on a global level but her strong presence, proud ties to her Indigenous heritage and great sense of humour.
Coming from a family of 19 children, Prof. Smallwood’s rise to success has been remarkable. As a young Indigenous female, stating “I want to be a doctor and I want to buy a pair of shoes” her parents ensured she strived towards what they called “a white education” to achieve her goals. Progressing through the world of academia from Midwifery to Masters and later PhD and even meeting Nelson Mandela, Prof. Smallwood has excelled as a global leader in sexual health.
“Name a disease, you name it, they’ve got it”, referring to her people, seemed to be an inspiration for her efforts to achieve greater health outcomes for Indigenous communities.
While Prof. Smallwood has worked on many International projects, what stood out the most was her success in designing and implementing a culturally appropriate program “Condoman”, as an alternative to the famous 1997 Grim Reaper HIV campaign. Pushing barriers, Prof. Smallwood recruited a young, fit Indigenous footy player to dress up as Condoman in a tight lycra outfit to roll out their campaign and it was an absolute hit! Their aim was to promote the use of condoms to minimise disease transmission in Indigenous communities. The impact of the campaign was recognised on a global scale, attracting International attention and support from the World Health Organization.
A take home message was that her people are not after ‘Equality’, they are after ‘Equity’. We need to empower Indigenous communities, increase their access to health care, educate and uphold their human rights.