Max Wilson is a young man on a mission: to improve Indigenous healthcare outcomes for his mob in Orange.
And he’s one step closer to making that dream a reality after signing up to a Certificate IV in Aboriginal Primary Health Care Practice and starting a job with Orange Aboriginal Medical Service.
"Growing up, I’ve seen a lot of chronic health conditions in our community," the proud Wiradjuri man said.
“I’ve also experienced serious injuries from playing footy over the years, and this has made me realise how important it is to prioritise your heath and wellbeing.
“When you look at the statistics of where health is going for Aboriginal people, it’s confronting, so to be working as an Aboriginal Health Practitioner is a privilege. I’m keen to start turning those statistics around in our region,” he said.
Mr Wilson credits his passion for community and culture to the support he received while studying at Canobolas Rural Technology High School (CRTHS).
It was there he was introduced to VERTO’s Aboriginal Youth Leadership Program, which he said helped him remain at school and successfully graduate in 2023.
The Aboriginal Youth Leadership Program is delivered by VERTO’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) Coordinator, Aunty Mary Croaker, who works with the school and local communities, acting as a mentor to help improve educational outcomes for Indigenous students.
Mr Wilson believes the support he received not only enhanced his cultural experience at school through dance and Aboriginal studies, but helped him build inner strength and create strong community links.
“I wasn’t very academic but I loved being around my peers and learning about my culture and identity through Aunty’s work with the Aboriginal Youth Leadership Program,” Mr Wilson said.
“In my final year, I was elected school captain and that renewed my focus to be a strong role model to the younger kids at school. It’s been a very important part of my journey.
“Mary’s work reinforced to me the importance of community, and that’s why I want to work in Aboriginal healthcare, so I can stay connected to my community and improve health outcomes for our people,” he said.
VERTO’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) Coordinator, Mary Croaker, commended Max for his commitment to helping others, describing him as an inspiring young man.
“I remember Max when he first started at Canobolas – I always knew he was destined for something special. He is a born leader,” Ms Croaker said.
“For Indigenous students like Max, being part of a school community means they must walk in two worlds every day, finding ways to blend their long-standing traditional culture with the dominant one in their environment, and this is not without challenges."
“Max has risen to those challenges, and will make an incredible difference to our Indigenous communities working as an Aboriginal Health Practitioner. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him,” she said.
VERTO CEO, Ron Maxwell, echoed Mary’s sentiments, adding that Max is one of many students who has gone on to do great things after participating in the Aboriginal Youth Leadership Program.
“I know I speak for the entire VERTO team when I say how proud we are of Mary and her work in this space,” Mr Maxwell said.
“Last year Canobolas Rural Technology High School had 41 students complete their HSC, 13 of whom identified as being Aboriginal (31 per cent). Of the 13 Aboriginal students who completed their HSC, 84 per cent have gone on to complete further education or employment.
“This is an incredible result and I look forward to seeing the program achieve long-term sustaintable outcomes for the Orange community in the years to come,” he said.
VERTO is a not-for-profit organisation delivering a range of apprenticeship, community support, employment and training services to assist individuals, employers and industries. We can be found in over 65 locations across New South Wales. For more information, visit verto.org.au.
VERTO is responsible for the Aboriginal Youth Leadership Program delivered in three Orange-based schools: Glenroi and Bowen primary schools and Canobolas Rural Technology High School. It aims to support Indigenous students to explore their post-school options while connecting kids to culture and community.