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Student story

Erin Heine

20 July 2023

"The human geographers made a lasting impression on me..."


Bachelor of Science in Geography

Manager Disability Inclusion, Central Coast Health District, New South Wales, Australia

Erin has spent a number of years working in the health service industry in Australia, after her studies with UC, which focused on a combination of human and physical geography.

This was a good foundation for entry into a Graduate Health Management programme through NSW Health, which provided her the opportunity to complete various postgraduate qualifications with a Health Service Management speciality, while getting on-the-ground experience developing health management skills across a range of operational and strategic roles within a public health district.

Her initial goals for undertaking her studies at UC were to learn more about building stronger and healthier communities, and to gain a career that would allow her to ‘be a critical thinker and a lifelong learner’. Erin credits her time at UC and all of the courses undertaken within Geography as being of immense use, and are regularly applied within her everyday working environment.

"I have been told I have an enquiring mind, and I wanted to know everything about why societies were the way they were, what shaped the word we live in, and how we can influence how it is in the future in a positive way," she says.

It was with the help of a Student Advisor that Erin found her passions lay within Geography, and so she enrolled at UC with courses around human impact within societies, as an adult student and the first person in her family to go to university. Erin also had the support of Equity & Disability Service due to a mild traumatic brain injury shortly before starting, which she says was a large part of her success at UC.

"With the welcoming learning environment I was given the best chance of success in my studies. What I love the most about my time at UC, and what made the biggest impact, was the passionate and engaging lecturers within the Department of Geography. This really made a difference to igniting the passion for learning which I still have with me to this day. The human geographers made a lasting impression on me and I and I believe has really guided me to the career I am in now."

Currently, Erin works in the Manager Disability Inclusion role in a Local Health District in the Central Coast of NSW, implementing more inclusivity and engagement for people with disabilities within the public health services. The role provides strategic support to clinical services, represents the district at State Health meetings, and is the subject matter expert for disability for the organisation.

"With the reforms in the disability funding system within Australia, it requires all the ability to problem solve, develop and maintain relationships, and address a range of complex system issues from a high level to the frontline clinical environment. I chose this role because it allowed me to do something I am passionate about, supporting clinicians to do what they do best, and being able to see the impact of that on patients, carers and the local community."

"I also love connecting, collaborating and networking with other people within the health system. We are all connected by a common goal of ensuring the patient, community and clients are at the heart of what we do," she says.

"My time learning within the UC Geography Department gave me a fantastic balance between the human and technical aspects of science. You need to be able to apply a social and equity lens, yet balance this with a strong evidence base to ensure not only that the work is meaningful to the area you are supporting, but that it is credible and able to be objectively evaluated for effectiveness."

"I also think it is important to ensure you have a good balance between social and physical sciences as they really do complement each other well in your career," she says.

Outside of work, Erin is just as involved in social justice issues. Being particularly engaged with indigenous cultures, she takes part in events around Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and also volunteers with the Gig Buddies Organisation which pairs up Adults with learning disabilities with a buddy to attend sport and music events, which reduces social isolation.

From her experience, Erin recommends other students take the opportunity during university study to engage more with others and support their learning development.

"Expose yourself to other cultures and appreciate and celebrate differences. You are at UC because you want to learn and grow as an individual, so make the most of informal and formal opportunities to do this. Use your skills and knowledge to truly engage with the world around you and to ensure that it is a positive, equitable place that embraces diversity and the success of the development of all people from society."

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