Moving Beyond the front line: A 20 year retrospective cohort study of career trajectories from the Indigenous Health Program at the University of Queensland


Project Aim:

To examine the critical success factors in the development of Indigenous leadership across the health system as demonstrated by the Indigenous Health Program of the University of Queensland alumni, who today work in various leadership roles throughout the country.



  1. Map career trajectories of a multidisciplinary cohort of Indigenous graduates of the Indigenous Health Program (IHP).
  2. Determine the enablers of professional success of health leaders in various facets of the health system.
  3. Investigate the impact of active participation in the community of Indigenous health professionals over the course of a career.
  4. Theorise the confluence of community, subjectivity, self-determination and health.


Project Team:

Project leader: Dr Chelsea Bond, Senior Lecturer, University of Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit
Project partners;

  1. Queensland University of Technology
  2. Bond University

Administering organisation: University of Queensland
Project timeline: 1 December 2017—31 March 2019




This research activity was a retrospective study that used strengths-based approaches to create a privileged narrative of a cohort of approximately 70 Indigenous health professionals who graduated from the Indigenous Health Program (IHP) at the University of Queensland between 1994-2005. The mapping exercise taken during this research followed the career of each member of the cohort taking into account:

  1. their background prior to enrolling into the IHP program
  2. professional milestones
  3. significant professional relationships over the 20 year period across various facets of the health system.

This process allowed for a complex analysis of the path to leadership in the health workforce for Indigenous professionals.


Project Findings

While Indigenous health workforce issues may often be understood in terms of numbers and statistics, the findings from this project reveal that such an approach may often overlook the underlying human stories which give depth and nuance to the complexities of Indigenous health workforce leadership.

Through a strength-based approach that centred the lived experiences of graduates from the IHP, there emerged a new way of thinking about leadership; one that centres Indigenous sovereignty so that it underpins educational career pathways. It understands Indigeneity as an asset that engenders Indigenous knowledge and strength, thus providing for effective leadership in the Indigenous health workforce.

Drawing upon the rich narratives shared through the data collection process of this research, six key domains were identified that captured the Indigenous health workforce leadership experiences of the cohort analysed. These domains are:

  1. Building leaders through building confidence
  2. Building leaders through capabilities
  3. Transformative learning through supportive relationships
  4. Transformative learning through innovative Indigenous health
  5. A different kind of health professional in a not so different health system
  6. A different kind of leadership.


Project Outcomes

  • Increased knowledge of the different pathways Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have taken and can take within the health space.
  • Revealed the complexities surrounding Indigenous health workforce leadership.
  • This research activity has the potential to reform and transform the health workforce agenda through advocacy and pushing for an Indigenist health workforce agenda that centres on Indigenous sovereignty rather than a notion of equity measured by population parity.
  • The engagement between the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander researchers with established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders during consultations provide opportunities for professional development.


Related resources:

Acknowledgement of Country

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