Science

First indigenous optometrist graduates

Jenna Owen at graduation, with Shalom College CEO Dr Hilton Immerman
Tuesday, 8 March, 2011
Bob Beale

At a ceremony at UNSW today, Investec Bank scholarship student, Jenna Owen graduated as an Optometrist with a first-class pass.  She received a Distinction/Higher Distinction average and was the dux of fourth-year Optometry.

Jenna is the first indigenous optometrist in NSW and only the second in Australia.  She grew up in the tiny town of Albert (with a population of 11) - 150 km west Dubbo, in far-western NSW.

Albert had no school, so she would spend an hour on the bus each day to attend classes in nearby Tottenham, a town of just 300 people.

When she reached Year 8, her mother moved to Dubbo so that Jenna could further her education.

The 23-year-old was supported in her UNSW studies by the Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship, which aims to redress the under-representation of indigenous Australians in the health professions. She was also a beneficiary of a scholarship for indigenous students administered by UNSW’s Shalom College, Nura Gili and the Muru Marri Indigenous Health Unit.

Owen plans to work in her home town, Dubbo, where she will be among the first of a new breed of optometrists with added responsibilities. Like general practitioners, these graduates will be able to prescribe drugs and other therapies so patients receive a seamless eye care service.

She intends to use her skills among the Aboriginal community in Dubbo because, she says, “it’s important for Indigenous people to have the opportunity to consult health professionals who have an understanding of their values and culture”.

She is also a gifted golfer with a handicap of 4.

After Dr Beth Kervin, who graduated as a doctor in 2009, Jenna is the second graduate of Shalom College’s Indigenous scholarship program.  Its next graduate will be Josef McDonald, who is currently in his 6th and final year of Medicine.

Investec Bank has been a strong supporter of the Shalom Gamarada Scholarship program for the past 5 years.  Following Jenna’s graduation, the company is now generously supporting a first year Aboriginal commerce student from Queensland.

 

Media contact:

Bob Beale - 0411 705 435 bbeale@unsw.edu.au