• Kaurna man, James Charles has won Scholar of the Year at the NAIDOC awards for his efforts in foot health (NITV News)Source: NITV News
This Garna man is one step closer to his dream after scoring 'Scholar of the year' at the 2017 National NAIDOC Awards.
By
Laura Morelli

3 Jul 2017 - 10:26 AM  UPDATED 26 Jul 2017 - 4:20 PM

From not being able to read and write, to becoming one of Australia’s most prominent experts in foot health. Kaurna man, James Charles is making massive footsteps for the future.

Looking back at his journey, James has travelled a long way.

“I struggled at school when I was young. I slipped through the gaps. Back then it was a lot easier, people put me through primary school thinking I was ok.

But when James, from Adelaide plains in south Australia began high school everything was different.

“People started to ask me questions… The teachers pulled me in half way through my first year in high school and said: ‘your grades aren’t good enough were going to have to pull you back. I got the message that school wasn’t working out.”

"I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry because no one ever wants to find out they’re illiterate.”

James decided to drop out of High School and instead work in a business trade. Despite having a good job, he was pretty much illiterate.

“Whenever someone asked me to read something I was always good at getting out of it - I’d say ‘I forgot my glasses’ or I’d ask someone else to do it… but that gets a bit old after a while and you’re worried about people finding out.”

James admits it was embarrassing but the main thing he was worried about was his kids.

“I was getting worried my kids would start asking me how to spell this and that, and I wouldn’t be able to tell them.”

The father of two decided to go back to school and redo the first years of High School.

“I went to Tafe and the teacher said, ‘just write a paragraph or something’, so I wrote a little story and he read it and looked at me and said: ‘Yep - we would classify you as illiterate’…I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry because no one ever wants to find out they’re illiterate.”

“Foot health isn’t something a lot of people are passionate about, but I’ve been given a skill and I’m keen to help and try and make a difference.”

James was the first person in his family to finish his Year 12 studies. He attended Adelaide uni and did an Arts degree.

“I remember thinking: I’ll give this one day, but it ended up going pretty well and soon enough I transferred to do podiatry and I’ve never looked back.”

A master’s degree enabled James to discover his passion, and travel to remote communities that are underprivileged with a lack of services. Soon after he decided to undergo a PhD.

“It wasn’t about getting a PHD, I had so many questions that needed answers. After working in the community I noticed foot structure function differences that were contributing to a lot of the problems I saw, particularly amputations and ulcers so I wanted to reduce that,” he said.

“I thought the biomechanics was a contributor. People were dismissing it as diabetes and smoking but I knew it wasn’t that simple.”

At this stage its only small steps, but James now has a goal that he’s keen to kick start into action.

“Foot health isn’t something a lot of people are passionate about, but I’ve been given a skill and I’m keen to help and try and make a difference.”

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