The passionate community advocate directing new futures for Gidgee Healing and QAIHC towards new growth.
With a professional career spanning the breadth of the continent, James Cripps is an information conduit and hardworking policymaker, who has found a home in Mt Isa, Queensland. Now, in the town he loves, James is helping to work with QAIHC Member Gidgee Healing in reaching greater health outcomes and ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have the final say in their health. James fulfils his roles dutifully as Director for both Gidgee Healing and QAIHC.
Descended from the Palawa people of Cape Barren Island, Flinders Island, and mainland Tasmania, James has deep family and personal connections to the mob of Lakes Entrance Victoria. Born and raised in Melbourne’s outer suburbs, a young James always had a fascination with how the body works and how it can be fixed if injured.
James worked a lifetime’s worth of labouring jobs as a young adolescent. He worked on farms, he dug fence posts, he worked in a meat processor, and he lumbered timber; but helping people always had a silent draw to him.
Even though he left school early, James worked his way through university with degrees focussing on drug and alcohol recovery. But he also noticed and lamented the revolving door of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. People would show up at primary care, have their problems patched up and be sent on their way. Inevitably people would be back with the same problems because western medicine wasn’t dealing with the root cause.
“I’ve always felt drawn to the health and wellbeing of people. Both the biological—body— and the spiritual. Though I said spiritual, I mean more the social and emotional wellbeing. So, for me, social and emotional wellbeing is the model. It’s the model that fits best for me. Unlike the Western model—we do need that model to coincide with ours—but it only focusses on the biological. Whereas social and emotional focusses on the mind, body, spirit; it’s our cultural health; it’s financial health; it’s our social health; it covers everything that keeps us happy and healthy Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.”
James has been working in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector the best part of 25 years. Starting off in Victoria, he made his way to South Australia. There he coordinated some youth health activities, coordinated for small projects within Catholic Services, and moved from NGO services into government (and vice versa) where he has largely remained until this day.
Working in a sector he loves has not been without its challenges, especially when he got to levels where he could influence policy. Even as a degree-qualified professional, and often the only Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander at the table, he and his Indigenous colleagues had to struggle to be listened to.