Connected Conversations | Millie Bird

Growing up in the Northern Territory with both parents working in the rural sector sowed the seeds for physiotherapy student, Millie Bird, to follow a similar path. After a six-month solo trip around Southeast Asia fostered a fierce love of meeting new people, and a conquest of the Alice Springs Larapinta Trail revealed the importance of nurturing the human body, Millie took the first steps towards a career in health. Her experiences have not only inspired her to pursue physiotherapy but have instilled a strong sense of responsibility for helping remote Indigenous communities. 

Millie Bird

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. 

My name is Millie and I'm a first-year physiotherapy student. In 2019, I was in a bit of a rut. I was in my first year of studying optometry, which I wasn’t enjoying. I had spent the previous year traveling and was feeling totally uninspired by the fact that I was now stuck studying a degree I couldn’t seem to find interest in. 

Halfway through 2019, I felt like I needed a challenge and a change of scenery. A friend and I decided to hike the Larapinta Trail, a 230km, two-week-long trail outside of Alice Springs. I didn’t train at all for this trip and realised soon after starting the trail that I had gotten myself into something that was bigger than me. The hike was very emotionally and physically taxing, but I was able to complete it. Afterwards, I found I had a greater appreciation of the body’s physical capacity and its ability to adapt in challenging situations. This was when I became inspired to study physiotherapy at the University of Adelaide.

Why did you choose the University of Adelaide for your studies? 

The main aspect that gave the physiotherapy degree at the University of Adelaide an edge over other universities in Adelaide was the fact that many of my friends had studied here and had said they had thrived from the opportunities offered at the University, and really enjoyed its convenient location and the positive and inspiring atmosphere.

I found the idea of doing an honours year at the end of my bachelor’s degree to be very appealing because it meant I could pursue a specific area in depth and enhance my undergraduate qualification whilst still completing my degree in a relatively short amount of time.

I also was attracted to the facilities and opportunities offered to physiotherapy students, such as the purpose-built training facilities and some of Australia’s most advanced simulation suites

What has been your journey to get where you are today? 

My biggest challenge was making the decision to drop out of optometry. At the time, I was worried that I was giving up a career that had great prospects and I was worried that I might regret my decision if I was unsuccessful in being offered a place in physiotherapy. The fear of disappointing my parents also made me reluctant to drop out. This is why it took me two years to finally pull the pin!

However, I remember that, as soon as I did, I felt all my fears and insecurities instantly fade away. In hindsight, I know I made the right decision at the right time because I now find myself studying a degree that motivates me, with peers and tutors who inspire and challenge me and I see my future career prospects to be way more exciting. 

What inspired you to pursue a career in health?

I always knew I wanted to pursue a career in health and have been motivated to do so by my interest in Indigenous culture and health.

I grew up in Katherine in the Northern Territory. At the time, my dad was a rural health nurse and my mum was a primary school teacher, and later a teacher of the Pitjantjatjara language at the School of Languages in Adelaide. 

My dad is now a general practitioner and my mum is studying to be a nurse so my interest in health, particularly Indigenous health, has been largely influenced by seeing my parents’ passion and motivation in their own careers as I was growing up.

I hope to work in Indigenous health once I have graduated as I have always had an interest in Indigenous culture. I really want to be able to play a role in closing the gap between health outcomes of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Millie Bird

What do you love most about studying at the University of Adelaide? 

The best part of my degree is being surrounded by University staff that are, not only highly trained and experienced, but who are also very approachable. I always feel very supported in my learning and have noticed the University staff taking interest in the lives and goals of their students. I have also loved meeting my fellow allied health peers and feel there has already been a strong bond and basis of support that has been formed amongst us, even after only having known each other for a few months. 

What’s one thing that’s surprised you about your degree so far? 

The amazing facilities we have access to from the day we begin studying. My favourite experience so far has been using the Adelaide Health Simulation (AHS) and interacting with actors in a clinical setting to practise our communication skills and experience what clinical consultations are like. 

Have you ever had a life-changing experience? 

When I was 18, I travelled alone across Southeast Asia for six months. Whilst this was a daunting and sometimes very lonely experience, it helped me realise my independence and capacity to engage with people of different cultures and regions from all over the world. This experience instilled in me a love of people, which I believe has strongly influenced my desire to work in health. 

What’s something most people don’t know about you? 

I've recently developed a fierce distaste for mint.

What’s the motto that you live by? 

‘If a door opens, go through it.’

What do you hope to achieve in the next 10 years? 

I hope to have graduated, to have travelled to India, to have done the Pacific Crest Trail in the United States of America, and to have moved interstate and be working in a rural or remote setting in an area of physiotherapy that inspires and challenges me every day. 

Tagged in connected conversations