Passing the baton

Alex Bruggisser, Miwatj Health’s Workforce Learning and Development Coordinator, has three missions:  to help trainees learn about health through a cultural lens, show people the true extent of their capabilities, and train herself out of her role.

The trail to Miwatj

Chatting with Alex, her calm presence and optimism puts us at ease instantly. After welcoming her baby boy into the world last year, she began working remotely from Coffs Harbour to be closer to her family. Today, as she tends to her garden on her family’s forested property in the coastal hinterland, she tells us about her life.

“I grew up in the rural village of Coramba, on Gumbaynggirr country. I was a keen horse rider in regional New South Wales. During my gap year, I became an Accredited Horse Riding Instructor. Then, a few years later, I set off for Germany to work with an elite Dressage rider, caring for her horses in return for lessons. I came back to Australia twelve months later.”

The team came so close to qualifying for the London 2012 Olympics, but were ultimately not selected for the Games. However, over the years, Alex had also been studying a Bachelor of Psychological Science. So when she returned to Australia, she pursued another dream that had been brewing.

“It was disappointing we weren’t able to go to London, but it was an incredible experience. When I came back to Coffs Harbour, I studied my Masters in Clinical Exercise Physiology and then started working as an Exercise Physiologist with a view to continuing onto Diabetes Education.”

Alex’s new career took her all the way up to the Northern Territory, where she soon crossed paths with us.

Joining the Miwatj Family

Alex worked as an Exercise Physiologist across a number of communities around the Territory, from the Barkley to East Katherine, North East Arnhem to Thamarrurr and Katherine West. After two years, she was ready to live and work remotely on a permanent basis. In 2017, inspired by our mission and captivated by the natural wonders of the Northern Territory, she moved to Milingimbi and joined us as a Workforce Learning and Development Coordinator.

“I connected with the Miwatj mission statement to empower Yolngu people to regain control of their health. I was also captivated by the Territory: it’s mesmerising and addictive. When a storm rolls in, it can be depressing, invigorating and enchanting all at once.”

In her role, Alex supports staff to identify and complete their training needs, facilitates Yolngu cultural inductions for new Yolngu and Balanda (non-Indigenous) staff, and checks in with our AHP trainees to offer resources and help them track their progress. Amid the day-to-day flurry of meetings, workshops and emails however, it’s clear that Alex sees how her role fits into the bigger picture.

“I have an incredible position here – I get to empower staff to learn about health so they can support their own people and community. It’s an honour to help show people their true capabilities and help them realise they are limitless. I feel so grateful to be part of Miwatj’s broader mission. I believe in our vision and mission statement, and I value my connection with all the communities we work with.”

Alex says that a true measure of her success will be whether she can pass the baton to a Yolngu colleague.

“My goal is to train myself out of my role – this is how I’ll know I’ve been successful. It’s not an unfamiliar concept to me because of my background in sport. When I became as good as my coach, it was time for me to find another coach. My trainers knew they’d trained me as much as they could; it was the marker of their success. It’s about building everyone up to be the best version of themselves.”

Reflections and ponderings 

Alex considers what she’s learned about the communities of East Arnhem Land – and herself, over the last three years:
“I feel privileged to have been adopted into the wider Miwatj family. I have a much greater appreciation of culture, but I understand that I’m privy to only a fraction of cultural knowledge. I have a huge admiration and respect for Yolngu, and particularly for my Yolngu colleagues – I watch them walk seamlessly between two worlds and I can’t imagine what that would be like. As for me, I’ve also realised that I was quite impatient to be told things, and that I tended to fill silences or be too quick to help people respond. But I no longer have an urgent need to push for information – I trust things will happen at the right time and I will find out what I need to know when I need to know it.”

As our conversation draws to a close, Alex shares some final thoughts with us:
“I love working for Miwatj. I’m incredibly grateful to the organisation for supporting me to work remotely because it’s an amazing place to work. Every day is different. I’m kept on my toes; my thinking is constantly challenged. And while I aim to train someone into my position, I hope my journey with Miwatj will be ongoing.”

Are you open-minded, respectful and ready to learn as much as you contribute? Explore a career with us today.

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