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Smallwood, Gracelyn (1951 - )

Townsville, Queensland, Australia
Aboriginal health worker, midwife and nurse


Gracelyn Smallwood, of Biri descent, was born and grew up in Townsville, Queensland. She obtained general nursing, midwifery and psychiatric nursing certificates from the Townsville hospital. She helped establish the Townsville Aboriginal Medical Service before working for a year as a volunteer among remote Aboriginal communities. In the 1970s and 1980s she studied indigenous health services in the United States and China. Upon her return to Australia, she worked for the national trachoma and eye health program, and the Pitjantjatjara council in northern South Australia. In 1985 she became matron of the Hetti Perkins home for the aged in Alice Springs.

Smallwood continued her studies, enrolling in a Master of Science degree at James Cook University in Queensland. She was appointed adviser on indigenous health to the federal Minister of Health, and has since become a leading commentator on AIDS among Aboriginal communities.

In 1989 Smallwood became the proprietor of 'Birri's Walkabout', an outlet for Aboriginal arts and crafts at the Townsville airport. In 1991 she was a founding member of the advisory committee formed to guide the Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker journal.

Sources used to compile this entry: Horton, David (ed.). The Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia, Vol. 2, Aboriginal Studies Press, Canberra, 1994, pp. 994-5.

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