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Ernest is an Australian medical graduate who trained in adult, child and cross-cultural psychiatry in the United States before returning to work in remote northern Australia, which he has done for the last two decades.
A leading figure in psychiatric research with Indigenous people in Australia, Ernest became the inaugural Regional Psychiatrist with Queensland Health in 1992, providing clinical services to remote Indigenous communities of Cape York and the Torres Strait. He was the Foundation Professor of Public Health (Mental Health) with the North Queensland Clinical School of the University of Queensland based in Cairns, which subsequently became the North Queensland Health Equalities Promotion Unit. He returned to clinical practice with Queensland Health in 2001 but remains involved in a range of projects including suicide prevention and the use of technology and multimedia approaches for health promotion.
In the 2010 Australia Day Honours list Ernest was awarded a Public Service Medal for outstanding public service to Queensland Health, particularly in the delivery of mental health initiatives in rural Queensland. He is an Adjunct Professor with James Cook University.