My name is Marita Sagigi, I’m from Mackay, I grew up in Mackay but my family is from Murray Island and I’m a medical scientist. I work in the pathology lab on Thursday Island at the hospital. Within the laboratory we do a lot of testing of bloods just to see the general way the body has been working, find out if patients have any liver, kidney problems. I’m actually in charge of the laboratory so I’m the manager and I’ve been up here for ten years now, so I have been in charge for four of those years and I absolutely enjoy being in a position where I can make a difference and make changes happen that are beneficial for our community.
I went to QUT at Gardens Point and I studied a Bachelor of Applied Science (Medical Science). Yeah, that was a three year degree. Going to university was probably always in the back of my mind, I always had a medical sort of career in my mind, but in year ten we did our professional placements at school and I was on Thursday Island at that stage, and I went to the hospital. We were fortunate at the school to have a great Indigenous liaison officer who gave us a lot of guidance in how we should apply and other avenues that were open to us to be able to get into the degree of our choice. And towards the end of the year when we finally got the OP’s, there were interviews at the universities through the Indigenous Unit* to see if you could get a placement that was Indigenous scholarship-wise rather than going through mainstream.
My biggest challenge, I suppose, going to university, initially I went straight after school but mid-way through my degree, I fell pregnant with my eldest son. So that was my biggest challenge, was trying to find the drive to go back to university after I had him. Fortunately, he was my rock, he was my driving point so I went back. So being a single mum at university was a huge challenge. You know the support I found from both the Indigenous Unit* and the university within itself was just amazing. My peers, the tutors, the lecturers, everybody was really supportive. You know there was no other agenda than to help us get through the degree and get the most out of it.
I was fortunate in my second last year of uni to get a Queensland Institute of Medical Research summer school scholarship. So I did a six to eight week placement with them doing a research project and that was fully funded for the time we were there. And it was really good because it showed me a different side to medical science that I hadn’t really thought about, so you know there’s two ways you can go with medical science and it’s either within the hospital system or you can go into research and I chose obviously, the hospital pathology side.
So I think it is really important that we go away and we get our degrees and certificates and the experience we need in our chosen careers and then come back to home and make a difference within our communities. It’s time for us to make a change to the people that we are passionate about and that we love. And to also set ourselves up as role models for the younger children who are schooling up here and wondering if a university degree is the way they should go, so it’s time for us to make a change to our community.
I think the most important thing to remember is that once you are at university there’s a whole new array of careers that could come you know into your line of sight. The degrees out there are endless and you may find something else that you are really passionate about. Seek advice, ask people, you know we come from a culture where we have extended families and within those extended families there are people who have been to university or have some idea of what the pathways are to get there. So always ask for advice, always talk to the schools about where they can get more information, scholarships and all that sort of stuff. Money is always a big factor, especially nowadays, so if you can access a scholarship or try and get your children some sort of experience in that way, then you know, do your best to do what you can for them.
Nowadays I see that there’s so many more opportunities for our kids to visit a university, to do some summer school scholarships and things like that so you know I think it’s important that us parents who have been to university and who do know that these things are there are to educate other parents who may not know, so you know it falls back into everybody’s hands to make sure there’s no gaps that people are falling through.
Look, life is short and you know we only get to tell our story once, so do it while you’re young, do it when you can and do it with gusto. Don’t do it lacklustre, you have to do it with everything you’ve got and don’t do it just because you feel that’s what other people expect of you. You have to be driven to be doing whatever you want to do it in life. Choose something that you love and just stick with it.
*Note: each university may refer to their local Indigenous support services in different ways e.g. Indigenous Education Units; Indigenous Support Units; School of Indigenous Australian Studies; Indigenous Institute etc., and may include Aboriginal and/ or Torres Strait Islander language in the naming title, as relevant to the local area.
Location: Thursday Island
Marita is a pathologist from Mackay, Qld. Studying a medical-related degree was always in the back of Marita’s mind throughout high school. With the help of her Indigenous Liaison Officer, she was able to gain entry via scholarship to uni. One of the greatest challenges Marita faced while studying was falling pregnant halfway through her degree. However, with help from her Indigenous unit and university support network she was able to complete her studies as a single mum.