Adjusting healthcare disparities

12 March 2024
Malachai Clements in a suit with rural landscape
Malachai Clements

By Tiahna Fiddling

Hundreds of kilometres and countless hours to access basic chiropractic care is a challenge faced by Weipa residents in Far North Queensland. 

Motivated by his upbringing in the remote Cape York town, CQUniversity student Malachai Clements is determined to address these healthcare disparities in underserved populations.

"Growing up in Weipa, I witnessed the need for better spinal health, and experiencing the lack of accessibility myself ignited my passion for chiropractic care,” Malachai said.

"The majority of Cape York residents live very physically demanding lives – rugby league is a way of life, intertribal conflicts are normal, and most people have labour-intensive mining or agricultural jobs. 

“For most Australians, the nearest chiropractor is around a 20-minute drive away, for us, it’s 12 hours, and that is providing the roads aren’t flooded!

“The desire to help my community, coupled with my interest in the human body and biology, inspired me to pursue a chiropractic career.”

As a third-year Bachelor of Science (Chiropractic) student based at the Brisbane campus, Malachai said he has been offered an abundance of learning and engagement opportunities to expand his knowledge. 

“Moving from the bush to the bright lights, coupled with the unknown of starting university, was a daunting prospect – but CQU has done an amazing job in all areas.

"The Chiropractic Head of Course, Dawn Dane has been incredibly supportive by providing a nurturing environment for my growth," Malachai said. 

“Additionally, I am working with Associate Professor Katie de Luca and her research team in applying for funding to research the need for spinal care in Cape York. 

"Their guidance has been invaluable in shaping my aspirations and instilling in me the importance of community-focused healthcare.”

Malachai in Tonga
Malachai in Weipa

As a proud Indigenous man, Malachai also aspires to bridge healthcare gaps and promote cultural inclusivity through his work. 

He envisions establishing the first permanent chiropractic clinic in the Western Cape region, with a long-term goal of providing care to remote Indigenous communities.

"Many Indigenous communities not only lack access but would be averse to accessing care from someone who doesn’t understand the Indigenous languages or culture,” he said.

“I already have Elders and youths enquiring whether I can help their aches and pains!” 

Malachai at the Pacific-Australia Youth Association Inc.'s Youth Leadership Summit in Nuku’alofa
Malachai at the Pacific-Australia Youth Association Inc.'s Youth Leadership Summit in Nuku’alofa

Recently, Malachai was selected as one of the 40 International Youth Delegates to attend the 2023 Pacific-Australia Youth Association Inc.'s Youth Leadership Summit in Nuku’alofa (Tonga). 

Malachi was supported by a CQUGlobal grant though the University’s International Directorate. 

He said this opportunity only further fuelled his commitment to global health equity.

“The Summit was a life-changing experience, highlighting for me the need for better chiropractic care world-wide and the need for Australia to play a bigger role in supporting our Pacific neighbours.

“If I can successfully open a chiropractic clinic in Weipa, I would love to organise service trips up to the Torres Strait,” Malachai said. 

“Furthermore, it would be a great opportunity to partner with CQU and the chiropractic school to run annual chiropractic service trips to the Pacific Island nations.

“As chiropractic care is almost non-existent for the Tongan population, this would greatly benefit the local populations, and provide students an amazing learning experience to help shape them into well-rounded, culturally-inclusive chiropractors.”

Malachai lives on the Cape York Peninsula
Malachai at Mapu'a Vaea Blowholes