Caitlin Liddle, in a graduation gown with the Indigenous ribbon drapped around her neck, leans against a wall. Photo: Michael Gray

Outstanding nursing graduate finds her place

Outstanding nursing graduate finds her place

Caitlin Liddle aiming to make a difference in Indigenous and rural health

Caitlin Liddle had always wanted to help people, but she just wasn’t quite sure how.

It took her a few tries, at different degrees, before she finally found the place where she fit – nursing.

“It took me a while to figure out exactly how I wanted to work with people,” Caitlin said.

“Prior to starting my nursing journey with UOW I attempted four other tertiary degrees.

“I originally began my Bachelor of Nursing to transition into midwifery but have fallen in love with the profession and have every intention of saying in nursing. I think the beauty of nursing is that there are so many avenues you can take and an almost endless list of areas to work in.”

Caitlin celebrated her graduation from the University of Wollongong (UOW) last week with a Bachelor of Nursing, with Distinction, during the Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health ceremony. She was also invited to deliver the Vote of Thanks on behalf of the student body, in recognition of her academic achievement and contribution to UOW. It was a moment that meant more to Caitlin than most.

“This graduation is incredibly important and significant for me as I end my streak of chronic dropout and complete my first degree,” she said. 

A proud Bundjalung woman, Caitlin is determined to use her nursing degree to make a tangible difference when it comes to Indigenous health and rural health. It is an issue that demands urgent attention, she said, from across the health care spectrum.

“My passion for Indigenous health arises from my own Aboriginality and connection to country, family and community. I see so many of my people, family included, who struggle with maintaining a healthy lifestyle and health problems,” she said.

“My own grandfather suffered from cardiac problems and unfortunately lost his life to a heart attack. Far too many of my community are passing away from preventable casues and it’s incredibly important for there to be more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the health care system to help create and cultivate culturally safe spaces for us to all access health care.”

Caitlin Liddle stands on stage at graduation and delivers a speech to the audience. Photo: Michael Gray Caitlin delivers the Vote of Thanks at graduation. 

Caitlin benefited deeply from the support and guidance of staff on campus, including at Woolyungah and in the School of Nursing, and said without that, she would not have been able to achieve all that she did.

“There is a true sense of camaraderie and community at UOW. The staff were always willing to go out of their way to assist you in any way they could and genuinely wanted to see their students succeed.

“Whenever the School of Nursing academics and coordinators saw you around campus or in the nursing building, they would stop for a chat to see how you were tracking both in your academic career but also personally.

“Completing a university degree is no easy feat. It requires a lot of sacrifice, dedication and commitment to your future. I wouldn’t have gotten through this degree without the people around me and I think that would be the same for most people.”

As an ambassador for Woolyungah Indigenous Centre, Caitlin said it was vital that other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students see themselves in the university environment and know they can succeed and thrive.

“It’s important for Mob to see other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in university and succeeding at it to show them that this is a space that they belong in and are able to be a part of. We deserve to be in these spaces and can do anything that we put our hearts, minds and souls into.”

Caitlin is now completing an Honours year at UOW, with a thesis focusing on the factors that influence the intention of nursing students to specialise in maternal and child health.

“I have truly enjoyed my time at UOW which is why I have committed to an Honours project with the university which will hopefully lead me to a PhD in future.”