James H. Ware Award 2021: Allison Hempenstall

Allison Hempenstall

Awardee: Allison Hempenstall
Program: MPH in Global Health
Project Title: A qualitative assessment of stakeholder public health priorities in the Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service
Organization: Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service (Torres Strait, Australia)

More about Dr. Hempenstall

The Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Services (TCHHS) mission is to improve the health and wellbeing of people in the Torres Strait, Northern Peninsula Area and Cape York areas by partnering with communities through courage, accountability, respect and engagement. TCHHS experiences a unique range of tropical communicable disease not seen elsewhere in Australia, conflated by high rates of non-communicable diseases. The health service is one of Australia’s largest providers of health services to First Nations peoples, 63.7% identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.

To date, there is no dedicated public health unit within this health service for the region, however the health service hopes to establish one in the near future. It is vital that First Nations communities are central in establishing the health priorities for this public health unit. The aim of this qualitative assessment was to explore key TCHHS stakeholders’ public health priorities for the region, to shape the implementation of the future TCHHS public health unit.

Most rewarding part of the field experience

Although I have lived in the Torres Strait for the past three years, this experience enabled me to employ new skills learnt throughout my Masters degree to see the same community through a different lens. I am inspired to return to the Torres Strait after the completion of my MPH and continue my partnership with the local community.

Advice for students doing work in the field

As public health professionals, I would encourage you to always genuinely listen to the voices of the communities you represent and serve.


I would firstly like to acknowledge the traditional owners and elders of the Torres Strait and Cape York, the community I am deeply privileged to live and work in. I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. Thank you to Professor Sarah Larkins, my practicum supervisor for her ongoing guidance and mentorship throughout this project. Thank you to Dr Sid Sharma and Dr Jesse Bump for nominating me for this award.