BCEC’s newest PhD Scholar explores the impact of international policies on Indigenous health

ContactsSara Hodgkinson, BCEC PhD Scholar
Kelly Pohatu, Events and Communications Officer
Joanne Peckitt, Communication and Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator
Published15 January 2018

Sara Hodgkinson recently joined the Centre after being awarded the 2018 BCEC PhD Scholarship. Sara shares her research interests, love of travel and aspirations for the future.

Why did you choose a career path in academia?

I have always loved to learn about the world around me, to develop ideas and to advance knowledge through deeper exploration of different topics. During my undergraduate studies, I became drawn to the idea of pursuing a career in academia so I could actively engage with and contribute to the production of knowledge in a vibrant research atmosphere.

While studying my Masters degree at the University of Sheffield, I had the opportunity to conduct field research in Nepal and this opened my eyes to the realities of academic work and the ‘real world’ impact that it can have.

Tell us why you chose to apply for the BCEC PhD Scholarship.

The BCEC Scholarship appealed to me for several reasons. First and foremost, the opportunity to pitch my own topic and to help define the path of my own PhD research was incredibly attractive to me. A lot of PhDs on offer at the time were to conduct research on a topic that was predefined by supervisors or a research team. This scholarship has allowed me to choose an avenue of study that is particularly suited to my own interests, which is especially motivating.

The chance to work with established academics in a thriving research environment also greatly appealed to me. Both BCEC and Curtin University have a strong reputation for producing quality research and it is exciting to now be a part of that. In addition, I was also keen to experience living and working in a country and culture different to my own – and somewhere a little warmer and sunnier than the UK!

What topic have you chosen for your PhD?

My PhD focuses on international policies in relation to Indigenous health. Essentially, it seeks to establish whether international policies such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) overlook so-called Fourth World communities, and if so, then how, where and why.

The Fourth World refers to marginalised non-state nations within developed nations. They are usually characterised by poor, complex social problems and in Australia, some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities may fall into this category.

The ultimate aim of the research is to determine how international policies might better meet the needs of Indigenous communities in Australia and beyond.

What are some of the challenges you’ve had to face and what got you through?

I found conducting qualitative research in Nepal for my Masters degree incredibly challenging due primarily to the language barrier and also to the cultural traditions of the people being  interviewed.

Getting to know the local people we were collaborating with helped us overcome a number of challenges, but also allowed us insight into their way of life, which helped us to understand and better navigate any barriers during our study.

What support do you have to enable the success of your study within research?

There is a strong sense of camaraderie here, which makes for a productive and collaborative working environment, and I know if I need a hand with anything, there are a variety of people I could approach. In addition, the resources available here at BCEC and at Curtin University are extensive which is invaluable when conducting in-depth research on any topic.

Tell us about some of your best travel experiences.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel quite extensively over the last decade, so there are quite a few! I lived in Singapore for five months as an exchange student during my time as an undergraduate, which was a wonderful experience and one that cemented my love of spicy food.

My time spent with a hill community in a remote part of Nepal was particularly special, partly due to the incredible backdrop of the Himalayas but mostly due to the kindness and friendliness of the people there.

Travelling has taught me that no matter where you go in the world you will find people with whom you share common ground and who may ultimately enrich your life.

What advice or words of wisdom would you share with others interested in applying for the BCEC PhD Scholarship?

Draw on your own passions to pitch a topic that you are truly invested in and don’t underestimate your abilities! Also, if you are from overseas and concerned about moving to an entirely new place, rest assured the friendliness of people here at BCEC – and in Perth in general – will soon have you feeling at home.