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Prestigious fellowship completes trifecta for Indigenous Professor

Nursing professor made Australian College of Nursing Fellow after 32 years in Indigenous health field.

It was an emotional moment when Indigenous Nursing Professor Odette Best learnt she was to be made a Fellow of the Australian College of Nursing.

Intertwined with the excitement of receiving the prestigious role, the University of Southern Queensland Nursing Professor also thought of her greatest inspiration – her Aunty Kay.

“I am now a second-generation Fellow of the Australian College of Nursing in my family,” Professor Best said.

“It was my Aunty Kay who got me into nursing in the first place, back in the late 80s - she was a fellow herself before she passed away in 2018.

“I was really happy to learn I had been made a Fellow of the Australian College of Nursing but my first response was I wanted to ring her…I know she would have been incredibly proud of me.”

After completing her nursing training at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in 1992, Professor Best embarked on a career in Indigenous Health. 

“Being Aboriginal, I really wanted to work in Indigenous health,” Professor Best said.

“That became more consolidated as I progressed through my training. 

“By third year I knew that I wanted to be a nurse working in an Aboriginal Medical Service – so that’s what I did.”

During the 90s, she worked as the sexual health coordinator at the Brisbane Aboriginal and Islander Community Health Service, while also providing services to Boggo Road women’s prison. 

In 2000, Professor Best started her tenure at the University of Southern Queensland as the first Indigenous nursing academic. She was awarded a Churchill Fellowship a couple of years later.

“Off the back of the Churchill Fellowship, The University of Southern Queensland became the first school of nursing in Australia to have a mandated core Indigenous health curriculum,” Professor Best said.

“The regulatory authority didn’t start to discuss the need for an Indigenous health component in nursing curriculum until 2009.

“I wrote the course in late 2002 and started teaching it in the 2003 curriculum.

“So when six or seven years later the regulatory body started to discuss it, we were able to turn around and say we’ve already been teaching this as a standalone course.”

In 2006, Professor Best left the University to take up a nursing director role within the Office of the Chief Nurse at Queensland Health. 

Entering back into tertiary sector in 2011 and teaching nursing again, she started work on being lead editor and co-authoring a book Yatdjuligin: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nursing and Midwifery Care, which is now in its 3rd edition.

Professor Best said she counts this as one of her greatest achievements, alongside her role in amending the University’s nursing curriculum. 

“Representation is absolutely crucial, especially in closing the gap in health between Indigenous people and their non-Indigenous counterparts,” Professor Best said. 

“One of the ways to help this is by developing the Indigenous health workforce, most specifically nurses and midwives.”

After 32 years in nursing, Professor Best is both a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Nurses and Midwives. 

“It was really humbling to have my peers and colleagues nominate me for the Australian College of Nursing Fellowship, it’s really nice to be recognised when you’re not expecting it.

“It’s also nice to have achieved this close to NAIDOC week.”

University of Southern Queensland nursing professor Odette Best has been made a Fellow of the Australian College of Nursing.
University of Southern Queensland nursing professor Odette Best has been made a Fellow of the Australian College of Nursing.