Dr Marti Harris has been on an amazing journey to become a teaching scholar and Chiropractic Lecturer at CQUni Mackay Ooralea Campus. This is his story.
I started with CQUni in 2015 at Sydney Campus as a part-time tutor in the chiropractic school when I was in full-time private practice, looking after the corporate high flyers in Circular Quay in Sydney.
I’ve been a chiropractor for 17 years and a chiropractic patient since I was a teenager. I graduated in 2001 from Macquarie University as my second professional calling.
I was previously trained as a high school teacher in the area of social sciences, in particular Textile and Design and Food Technology. But that’s another story.
Once I graduated in 1988, I actually taught in many schools in NSW and even in my old high school, which was a little surreal teaching alongside the teachers I grew up with, before realising that I needed to leave that for a while and go and do some travelling around the world.
I taught in London for almost a year before heading to the US and working with kids over there on summer camps at the YMCA in California.
I began my chiropractic journey like many people after an injury as a teenager and discovered through massage and manipulation it got better quickly. A series of accidents then sparked an interest in how the body works and I began to learn as much as I could.
I learnt about massage therapy and started seeing how people got better with the power of human touch.
Over the years I worked as a massage therapist in Sydney’s 5 Star hotels and got to pamper lots of the Hollywood glitterati and celebs from around the world.
I could name drop: Hallie Berry, Elle McPherson, Morgan Feeman, Lenny Krazits and lots of Mr and Mrs Smiths (that is code for celebrity in the hotel trade).
This is where I met my wife of 18 years, Colleen, who also now works at CQUni.
We had an eclectic group of friends at the time and formed Innovative Moves a corporate massage service in Sydney that morphed into corporate entertainment where we found ourselves booking people with talent like fire dancers, contortionists, jugglers, magicians and other performance artists for corporate events.
Soon we started massage services at nightclubs in Sydney (which was very cool) and big parties working with organisations like Virgin and at Mardi Gras.
At that time I trained with an osteopath and chiropractor who showed me the power of the nervous system and the true meaning of healing through chiropractic and that is when I knew this is what I wanted to do with my hands and mind from now on.
I went back to Macquarie Uni for the next 4 years and became a chiropractor as our massage empire rolled on helping put me through school again.
While in private practiceI always wanted to provide chiro care to third world communities, but was not able to get away from practice long enough to do so.
However, in 2017 I had the opportunity to be one of 30 chiropractors chosen from Australia to provide chiro care to an organisation known as Hands On India, a not for profit charity providing chiropractic care, medical assistance, education and micro-industry loans to the people of Siliguri, West Bengal, India.
For two weeks volunteers from Australia and New Zealand travel to the region to create make shift clinics and provide “hands on” muscular skeletal care. All attendees donate their time, travel costs and also raise money to support these people. One hundred per cent of the funds donated are used to fund Hands On India projects.
One of these projects is Women’s Empowerment Foundation of Hands On India. This money is helping over 2000 women of the Siliguri region in India. They are supported to create micro industry, learn new skills, create support networks and gain greater independence and resourcefulness. They are often victims of social injustice, harassment and trafficking. This not only impacts their lives, but that of their children and the community at large.
The trips have been such a success, groups have been returning annually to the community. What began as trips to provide chiropractic and basic health care to a region has grown to supporting a community that was locked in poverty and lacking education.
This community consists of many minority and tribal groups, which include vulnerable, illiterate people who work on tea plantations or break river stones by hand, and live on $1-$2 per day. Their hard labour results in many musculoskeletal problems; this work often keeps them locked in a poverty cycle.
With one in four children in child labour we realised we needed to fund local communities to allow children to attend school, receive an education and escape their poverty cycle.
Hands on India now provides financial support for seven schools who educate 700 children in their local rock breaking or tea picking communities. We also support Women’s Empowerment Groups consisting of 2000 women. We provide funds that they use to purchase piglets, goats, and sewing machines, or learn skills to run small businesses, allowing them to build financial independence for their families. Support of these women has allowed their children to attend schools rather than work in child labour.
Some of the memorable moments:
Having a woman carried in that was apparently paralysed for several years – she was carried everywhere and spent her time on a mat. After a chiropractic examination we realised she was not paralysed, but had fractured her back and it had never healed. Seeing her move after years of not was truly humbling.
The leprosy woman and her son, a disease that we do not see in Australia and is in decline around the world.
It was certainly a reality check, we are so fortunate in Australia
compared to these communities. We want for nothing, we waste our resources, and we don’t appreciate all we have.
Families washing in the streets, cattle in troughs and mud brick houses.
Working in an orphanage with disabled children broke my heart. The gratitude of these people that have nothing to give but their smiles I will never forget.
Today, I also work at MyChiropractor in Mackay as a part-time practitioner and love the team and the patients I care for and this enables me to do what I love which is provide chiropractic care to people.
My dad, who is no longer alive, would be proud that I am very involved in the Eimeo Surf Life Saving Club since arriving at Mackay three years ago and now run the Nippers programwhen I’m not lifeguarding for this great club.
My teaching duties include many areas of the chiropractic program, in both undergraduate and masters, including Mental Health, which I will be researching further this year. I would like to see that our students are well equipped to cater for the growing number of mentally ill population once they graduate.
I’m also the Indigenous champion for our school. I will be Indigenising the curriculum for our program and help to establish outreach programs in Indigenous communities for our students where we can make the greatest benefit for these communities and enhance our students’ experience.
I’m proud to be a father, husband, an educator at CQUni, a practicing chiropractor and a lifelong student.