Improving lives of at-risk Aboriginal youth

Second year Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery student Morgan Jones

4 August 2015

Making a difference to the lives of at-risk Aboriginal youth is the inspiration behind a major fundraising initiative by Morgan Jones, a Medicine student from The University of Notre Dame Australia’s Sydney Campus.

Morgan wants to raise $20,000 to help the Aboriginal Elders at Hope Vale in far north Queensland rebuild the Yungee Healing Place which was destroyed by cyclone Ita in April 2014. He has been working on the project since January this year after watching a video on social media about the destruction of the centre.

“The Yungee Healing Place is where community Elders can take at-risk youth to connect with country and culture and improve their wellbeing and mental health with the aim of reducing the rates of youth suicide among Indigenous communities,” Morgan said.

“I was fairly swept up by the tragedy of it all; the healing centre focused on such positive programs and outcomes – yet was destroyed overnight.”

Morgan said Indigenous children accounted for half of the child suicides between the ages of 10-14 in Queensland with the suicide rate among Indigenous children and teenagers in Queensland five times that of their non-Indigenous peers1.

“I contacted Culture is Life and this project was born out of that phone call. The project has evolved more than I ever expected and rather than a patch up job we will essentially be building a new building, using the same floor plan, but with all new materials,” Morgan said.

As Co-Chair of ROUNDS, the student-run Rural Health Organisation of the University of Notre Dame Sydney, Morgan said he was grateful for organisations that prioritised the provision of health care services for people in rural and remote settings.

“Our team will be heading to Hope Vale for the rebuild in September. The team consists of a number of builders along with members from the ROUNDS committee”, Mr Jones said.

Associate Professor Joe McGirr, Associate Dean Rural, said it was wonderful to see Notre Dame medical students identify a need in the community and look for ways to address it.

“Part of the vision the School of Medicine, Sydney, has for educating doctors of the future is to have a strong sense of vocation, recognising the privilege of medical training and seek to apply their skills in ways that help those in greatest need, and to support their profession,” Associate Professor McGirr said.

The University’s Head of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, Associate Professor Frankie Merritt, said the Yungee project illustrated how the power of an idea could be ignited by a passionate desire to make a difference.

“I've witnessed this project evolve from its embryonic stage to what it is now; an exemplar of appropriate and respectful community engagement,” Associate Professor Merritt said.

To source supplies and materials for the Healing Centre re-build, ROUNDS is holding a Cocktail fundraiser on 14 August to raise the $20,000 required. There will be a silent auction and Yuin Elder, Uncle Max Dulumunmun Harrison, will be guest speaker on the night.

To learn more about the Yungee Healing Place and the Cocktail fundraiser, please go to their website

1 Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian, 2013, Annual Report: Deaths of Children and Young People Queensland 2012-2013, pp.62


Theresa Kyne: Tel (02) 8204 4141; Mob: 0407 408 177;