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Health services executive and alumni celebrated

man holding trophy in a suit
Mr Leedie continues to work with university staff decades after graduating, including innovative work using AI to improve health modelling.

Floyd Leedie’s journey towards university began with a small dream – a desire for a future of matchbox cars for his children.

But it was fuelled by a much bigger dream for self-determination for Indigenous communities, especially his own.

Floyd has cultural connections to the Luma Luma Nation in the Far North Queensland Coastal Region, Kullillee Nation in the Far South West Queensland Region and Wakka Wakka Nation in the South Burnett/Central Burnett Region.

Floyd’s desire to achieve these dreams has led him to the height of healthcare achievement for and in rural and regional Indigenous communities since his graduation 23 years ago.

This week (Tuesday, October 10), Floyd was named University of Southern Queensland’s Alumnus of the Year in Health and Wellbeing for his extraordinary leadership as chief executive officer of Goondir Health Service.

His journey has been a long one that first started in Cherbourg as a state administration employee in the late ‘80s to working for the Cherbourg Aboriginal Shire Council in administration during late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

Then 25, he turned to university to seek out a future of self-management and self-determination for his community.

His childhood was marred by injustices committed against Indigenous people in Queensland. Two of Floyd’s grandparents and mother was a child of the stolen generations and all four grandparents and both parents was a victim of stolen wages.

Until the early ‘50s, his parents were forced to seek permission to leave Cherbourg for work under legislation that limited the free movement of Indigenous people outside of reserves and missions.

They moved around southern Queensland following work while raising Floyd and his brothers and sisters. Resources were limited.

“I used to go to school and ask my friends if I could borrow their matchbox cars to play in the sandpit with them,” he said.

“That’s what inspired me, at six-years-old. I wanted to grow up and make sure my kids had cars to play with.

“When I graduated from university, my family walked out with my graduation cake and you know what was on top? A matchbox car.”

Floyd graduated from UniSQ in 1999 after first going through the bridging program at the College of First Nations, then called Kumbari Ngurpai Lag, before completing his Bachelor of Commerce (accounting).

He has been CEO of Goondir Health Services since 2008.

The service provides primary health care as well as health outreach services and support programs to Indigenous communities from Oakey to St George.

“We have a holistic view of health services,” he said.

“Some of the things we are doing are pioneering. We believe we have one of the biggest oral health care services in rural and regional Australia due to partnering with likeminded service providers.”

One flagship program at Goondir is their Big Buddy youth program, which aims to empower and support young Indigenous people to manage health concerns and prepare them for the workforce after school.

“University helped me become the leader I didn’t think I would ever be,” he said.

“It helped empower me with many of the skills and attributes that I have today which in turn have helped me and my team make Goondir so successful.”

Mr Leedie continues to work with university staff decades after graduating, including innovative work using AI to improve health modelling.