Recent Bachelor of Occupational Therapy graduate, Chelsea Thompson credits much of her career success to her great network of friends around her through school and university and the support of her family. Chelsea is a young Kara Kara woman who received a BMA Indigenous Scholarship while studying at CQUniversity which helped with many of the financial pressures of study. Since completing her studies, Chelsea has secured a position as an occupational therapist at LiveBetter in Rockhampton. CQUni celebrates her achievements during International Women’s Day 2020.
What was life like growing up in Central Queensland for a girl from the Kara Kara people?
Living in Rockhampton I went to a large state primary school within walking distance from my home and a large private high school that a lot of my friends went to as well. I lived with both parents and three siblings and was involved in a variety of sports growing up including touch football, netball, gymnastics and trampolining. Living in a smaller city I made great groups of friends through school and sport who were all close by. I spent a lot of my holidays with family, visiting relatives and friends in Bundaberg. In high school, I loved to volunteer in things like school musicals, pancake Tuesdays, fundraiser sausage sizzles and other school events.
I was recognised in year 12 as a student leader for a sports house. This was great for developing my social, leadership skills and confidence and allowed me to be involved in prayers in school assemblies and participating in all events at sports and swimming carnivals and doing my best to encourage younger students to get involved. Living in a smaller community with plenty of opportunities around for work, sport and social events and a great network of friends nearby has helped me to become who I am today.
Were there expectations that you would pursue certain careers or life paths?
I always had an expectation for myself to study and build myself a great career, however, the career path I chose was completely up to me. Being someone who has interests in art, sport and helping people, made me very unsure of what area I would like to work in. I have always wanted to be in a profession where I could help people. My parents have always been very supportive of my choices and it was my mother who suggested occupational therapy to me, so I researched it. I really liked what it was all about and being a course available at CQUni made it very appealing to me.
Why did you decide to study occupational therapy in Rockhampton?
Choosing to stay in Rockhampton to study at CQUni was not a hard decision. I knew that their occupational therapy program was quite new, and my sister had a friend who was studying OT at CQUni and was really enjoying it. That made my decision easy and being able to continue living at home and stay in my job at a coffee shop whilst studying was super helpful throughout my uni journey. As the recipient of the BMA Indigenous Scholarship, how did this help you through your study? Receiving the BMA scholarship was a huge help throughout my studies.
I was able to use my scholarship to assist with buying essentials such as a new laptop, textbooks, notebooks, and pens. In my third year of study, I also was given the opportunity, along with three other OT students, to participate in an overseas placement in Thailand. My scholarship money helped with any travel expenses, as well as for food and experiences while being on placement in a foreign country. Another area where my scholarship assisted my study was when I completed a seven-week block placement at Redland Bay hospital with things such as rent, groceries, and fuel.
Looking to the future, where do you hope your career takes you?
Occupational therapy is so broad and has a huge range of areas you could potentially work in. I have found interest in home modifications and paediatrics. In the future, being someone who has an artistic side, I would love for this career to take me to design universal spaces, both individual living and outdoor community spaces that are equally accessible to all. Overall, the fulfillment of helping people live as independently as possible and assisting them with what they want, need or are expected to do is one of the great aspects of this profession.
Have you a motto or any words of wisdom you live by that could inspire the next generation of students?
I always believe that you should try to take every opportunity that comes your way. Whether that be doing an overseas placement or trying something completely new, I believe you should always give things a go because you can learn so much from every experience, good or bad, and that is what develops you as a person.