Indigenous health scholarships
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Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme

The Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme (PHMSS) is designed to encourage and assist undergraduate students in health-related disciplines to complete their studies and join the health workforce. The scheme provides scholarships for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people studying an entry level health course.

The Australian Government established the Scheme as a tribute to the late Dr Arnold ‘Puggy’ Hunter’s outstanding contribution to Indigenous Australians’ health and his role and Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO). NACCHO News – special tribute edition provides an insight to Puggy and his tireless efforts to improve Aboriginal health.

Puggy Hunter scholarship


Applications for the PHMSS 2022 round closed on 11 October 2021 – no late applications can be accepted. All applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application late November 2021.

Eligible health areas

  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander primary health care
  • Dentistry/oral health (excluding dental assistants)
  • Mental health studies
  • Nursing (RN & EN)
  • Midwifery
  • Medicine
  • Allied health (excluding pharmacy)

Examples of eligible study areas.

Eligibility criteria

Applications will be considered from applicants who are:

  • of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent
    Applicants must identify as and be able to confirm their Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status.
  • enrolled or intending to enrol in an entry level or graduate entry level health related course
    Courses must be provided by an Australian registered training organisation or university. Funding is not available for postgraduate study.
  • intending to study in the academic year that the scholarship is offered.

A significant number of applications are received each year; meeting the eligibility criteria will not guarantee applicants a scholarship offer.

Please note: You do not need to be currently enrolled in a course to complete a scholarship application, you simply need to be intending to enrol in semester one 2022, at any accredited course provider in Australia.

Selection criteria

These are competitive scholarships and will be awarded on the recommendation of the independent selection committee whose assessment will be based on how applicants address the following questions:

  • Describe what has been your driving influence/motivation in wanting to become a health professional in your chosen area.
  • Discuss what you hope to accomplish as a health professional in the next 5-10 years.
  • Discuss your commitment to study in your chosen course.
  • Outline your involvement in community activities, including promoting the health and well-being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people.

The scholarships are funded by the Australian Government, Department of Health and administered by the Australian College of Nursing. The scheme was established in recognition of Dr Arnold ‘Puggy’ Hunter’s significant contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and his role as Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

Value of scholarship

Funding is provided for the normal duration of the course. Full time scholarship awardees will receive up to $15,000 per year and part time recipients will receive up to $7,500 per year. The funding is paid in 24 fortnightly instalments throughout the study period of each year.

PHMSS Deadly Health Professionals – recipient's stories

Shaydeen Stocker

I am Shay, I am in my late 30s, married and my husband works fly-in-fly-out.  Together we have three young children, two boys aged 8 and 7 and a little girl who is 3. Prior to having children, I worked as an Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Advisor in the Mining and also Oil and Gas Industries.

My previous OHS experience has proven advantageous to my change of career in Nursing. I decided to try nursing while I was on maternity leave from my OHS job as I enjoyed the “health” side of my role and was eager to gain practical skills as a health officer. As I wasn’t sure if nursing was a good fit for me, I went with the shorter course and completed the Diploma of Enrolled Nursing in 2015.

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I then decided to go on to complete the conversion to become a Registered nurse while I was pregnant with my third child. Juggling young children with study was certainly challenging, but the Puggy Hunter Scholarship gave me financial security to assist with childcare, books and other study materials. My advice for others who are thinking of starting a career in health or are currently studying is to never give up and keep chipping away at the course work. It took me longer than I anticipated to complete my RN course, but I got there in the end!

I am starting my RN Grad program at SJOG in Midland in February and since swapping careers, I have wondered why I didn’t start nursing sooner! I am really keen to get started and am sincerely grateful for the support from the PHMSS.

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Ashleigh Ryan
Ashleigh Ryan

My name is Ashleigh Ryan and I’m a proud Wiradjuri and Bunjalung women. I have recently completed a Bachelor of Applied Science (Occupational Therapy) (Honours) at the University of Sydney. Health is something I have always been passionate about, I’d say this would have been sparked from watching my late Great Grandfather treat my family using natural and traditional medicine practices when I was younger. This interest turned into an awareness as a grew older. I started to become aware of the health inequities that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face and how this was impacting my family and our communities. I chose occupational therapy as I felt this degree incorporated the most holistic approach to health in that it was concerned with mental, social and physical aspects of health.

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I was lucky enough to be granted the Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme during my third year of university. Prior to this, I was working approximately 4 times a week which helped with funding university related expenses such as textbooks and supplies, a computer and travel. Having university classes approximately 3-4 times a week plus the additional work commitments, the load became very stressful and I felt I did not have enough time to study or put effort into my university work. Being granted the PHMSS allowed me to reduce my hours at work to 1-2 times per week, allowing me to focus on my studies and grades more, which significantly increased. This particularly made a difference in my final year of study when I was completing my honours thesis. Without the PHMSS, I don’t believe I would have been able to put the time and effort in to achieving my goal of first class honours.

My short-term goal once I had finished university was to find full time work as an occupational therapist, preferably with NSW Health. I have been fortunate enough to be offered a position with NSW Health as a community paediatric occupational therapist, which commences February 2020. A long-term goal for me is to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, either as a clinician or as a researcher. I look forward to seeing where my journey as an occupational therapists takes me! For anyone thinking of starting a career in health, definitely do it. A career in health is not only rewarding, but you also have the opportunity to influence and change the health system to be more equitable and inclusive of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people.

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Tom Rout
Tom Rout

I first decided that I wanted to work in psychology after seeing a number of people in my life experiencing mental health issues. I found the increased rates of mental health difficulties among Indigenous people extremely concerning, and thought this could be an area where I could help to ‘Close The Gap’. It is my goal to work in the Shoalhaven region of New South Wales where there is a large population of Indigenous Australians, as well as Elders of Yuin country, where I come from.

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The Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship significantly reduced financial stress associated with being a student and allowed me to devote most of my time to studying instead of working. I was even able to put some of the funding towards my HECS. I would strongly recommend anybody fortunate enough to have earned this scholarship to budget their payments so they aren’t required to work much and can focus on their studies. Now that I’ve completed my Honours, I am commencing a PhD in psychology which will provide me with further advanced training in the field of psychological research and practice so that I can be fully qualified to help people experiencing mental health problems.

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