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In Our Own Right: Black Australian Nurses' Stories

By Sally Goold, Kerrynne Liddle

Overview

The intimate, private, and heart wrenching stories told in this book, the first of its kind in Australia, will penetrate the hearts and souls of even the most hardened reader.

Told with incredible dignity and humility, each of the individual and deeply personal stories recounted is a powerful testimony to the gross inhumanity and brutal capacity of white people in Australia - colonists who selectively destroy and humiliate, without remorse, the lives and souls of their fellow black Australians.

In Our Own Right: Black Australian Nurses' Stories provides a powerful catalyst for questioning and calling into question the taken-for-granted humanity of us all.

Preface

The Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses (CATSIN) was formed following the historic 'National Forum for Development of Strategies to Increase the Numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Nursing', held August 1997 in Sydney. The forum was attended by 32 Indigenous registered nurses.

During CATSIN's inaugural meeting, those who attended shared their stories. As a result, one of the recommendations formulated was to write and have published a book on our stories. We accounted for 0.5 per cent of the total registered nurse population of Australia, so this was seen as an important strategy to increase recruitment and retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses. Other recommendations and strategies were developed that flowed from that main one.

One of those was to honour Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses, who had undertaken their nurse training in the early days, for us, during the 1940s and 1950s. Many of those people were excluded from hospital-based training programs in various states because of their Aboriginality. Being excluded from undertaking nurse training, they worked as assistant nurses and untrained carers. It was considered that such a rich source of information on the experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses' history should not be lost. Tribute should be paid to the trailblazers who had the courage to challenge a system which has excluded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from undertaking nursing.

These people are considered to be role models and an inspiration to those considering undertaking nursing, student nurses and those registered nurses following in their footsteps. Well deserved recognition and respect should be shown to those trailblazers, who endured many physical and emotional hardships.

Knowledge of our history will help to raise the profile of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses. It will certainly highlight our struggle to be recognized within the dominant cultural group, and outline our contribution to nursing in this country.

By collecting their stories and having them published in In Our Own Right: Black Australian Nurses' Stories, we give those women overdue recognition, for their wonderful contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and to the nursing profession. Those trailblazers have acted and continue to act as role models and as an inspiration to those following in their footsteps.

Sally S Goold, OAM
CATSIN, June 2005

Foreword

The intimate, private, and heart wrenching stories told in this book, the first of its kind to be published in Australia, will penetrate the hearts and souls of even the most hardened reader. Told with incredible dignity and humility, each of the individual and deeply personal stories recounted in this book stands as a powerful testimony to the gross inhumanity and brutal capacity of white people in Australia selectively to destroy and humiliate, without remorse, the lives and souls of their fellow black Australians. Each of the stories told in this book also exposes the nasty and dehumanising effects of racism even in so-called 'caring' environments. What is particularly confronting about this exposé is that individual nurses, and the nursing profession as a whole, were complicit in this racism and its soul-destroying consequences to Indigenous nurses - whose stories are only now being told, for the first time, decades after the experiences related occurred.

This book provides a powerful catalyst for questioning and calling into question the taken-for-granted humanity of us all. When it is considered that the nurses depicted in this book had 'done nothing' other than be of a different colour and culture, bewildering questions arise as to why it was necessary for their white counterparts to treat them so cruelly? Also bewildering is that, in a social context which claimed to be 'egalitarian', how it was possible for the cruel and dehumanising manner in which these nurses were treated to be 'justified' in the name of charity, benevolence and the 'social good'? Enslavement, cruelty and dehumanisation has only ever privileged those who have the power to impose their will and value systems onto others, and the cases of the Indigenous nurses presented in this book serve to underscore this point.

The experiences described in this book also recount acts of human sensitivity. Without the few 'good' human beings who supported them, the lives and aspirations of each of the Aboriginal nurses, reflected in this book as 'colonised outsiders', would perhaps have been different, and may have remained silent and unrecognised, as so many other lives have been, because of the destructive influences of white Australian culture at the time they were trying to develop their nursing careers.

The nurses' courage, determination, resilience, persistence, dignity, and ability to achieve what they have against all odds so graphically presented in this book makes my soul tremble and to ask 'how?'. How did they endure all the brutal indignities, violation and insults that they suffered? How did they remain focused? How did they come to achieve what they did within such a hostile and dismissive society? My answer to this question is that these individuals are, what the ancient Greeks would call 'superhuman god like persons' who are endowed with unique qualities - who know who they are, who know what they are worth and value, and whose identity cannot be taken away by any one or means.

The courage and dignity of the individual nurses who have come forward to write their stories has established a firm and profound basis upon which Indigenous nurses today can stand proudly and with dignity, and create a brilliant affirming future. This can be done without any obligation to anyone.

The nursing profession in Australia has been called to action for many years now. The transcultural nursing movement, which began in the early 1970's, attempted to raise the consciousness of its members. At the centre of this movement were calls for changes to the health care system to make it more responsive to the needs of people from different cultures and who spoke different languages. This call required changes to take place in the minds, hearts and practices of nurses and other health care professionals. Just how effective this call has been, I will leave to individual nurses, nursing organisations and others to judge.

The stories in this book demonstrate how humanity can operate at its worst and at its best. They show all of us that, when at its best, humanity can inspire, encourage and empower us; when at its worst, however, it can also demoralise, discourage, and devastate us - both as individuals and as a people. The lessons are clear: we cannot and must not condone humanity at its worst, and the immoral acts that it seeks to justify. As the stories in this book remind us, so long as racism, discrimination and intolerance of difference govern our public service systems and the minds, souls and hearts of people who comprise those systems, the nursing profession and society at large will remain impoverished, tormented and not at peace with itself or its humanity.

As a colonised people, Indigenous Australians have a profound interest in reclaiming their self determination. In respect of this interest, members of the nursing profession need to open their hearts and souls and the doors to the systems they control, and welcome other voices, other views, and other ways of doing, perceiving and advancing the profession. This book shows us a way forward. Our task and responsibility now is to adopt and follow the path to the future that it has identified. By doing this - together and in partnership with Indigenous nurses and colleagues - the nursing profession too can move forward.

Olga Kanitsaki, AM
Professor of Transcultural Nursing
RMIT University

June 2005

 

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Foreword
Preface

  • Sadie Canning MBE
    My story: The beginning, childhood, ambitions and achievements
  • Joan Winch AM
    A vision for our people
  • Jilpia Jones
    The history of my nursing
  • MaryAnn Bin-Sallik EDD (Harvard)
    Beyond expectations: From nursing to academia
  • Ros Pierce
    Nursing: In my heart and in my blood
  • Faye Ryan (nee Clarke)
    Something that helped others
  • Shane Mohor
    A focus on men's health
  • Lowitja O'Donoghue AC, CBE
    Racism often came from patients, not colleagues
  • Janine Cox
    Investigate our heritage
  • Sharon Dennis
    I made it; I am a nurse!
  • Karen Atkinson
    Mum and Dad's fighting spirit inspired me
  • Barbara Browne
    I never forgot my dream
  • Roslyn Lockhart
    The power of education
  • Kerrie Doyle
    I have been a nurse for 30 years. I love it!
  • Vicki Bradford
    I would not trade it for quids
  • Sally Goold OAM (nee Bamblett)
    Keep your eyes on the prize!
  • Alecia McKeown
    Why I wish to become a nurse
  • Garry Torrens (Mr T)
    A sense of understanding
  • Ellie Gaffney AM
    Determination to succeed
  • Emily Marshall
    My story of the red cloth
  • Noela Baigrie (nee Fogarty)
    The foundation for caring is respect and dignity
  • Carmen Parter
    Beyond nursing
  • Diana Ross
    The birthing tree

Reviews

Jill Milroy
Dean of Indigenous Studies, University of Western Australia

Dr Janet Grice
Editor - Nexus, Newsletter of The Australian Sociological Association Inc., School of Social Science, University of Queensland

Anthony O'Brien, RN
Senior Lecturer, Centre for Mental Health Research, Policy and Service Development, The University of Auckland, New Zealand

Diana Grant-Mackie RN BA MN
Committee member: Action for Children and Youth of Aotearoa Inc., an NGO concerned with the UN Rights of the Child; MN (Child and Family Nursing); life member of New Zealand Nurses' Organisation; Community Health Nurse (retired)

Cronin, D
(2005) Racism alive, well in health system: author. Canberra Times, Thursday 29 September 2005, p.

Webster, A
(2005) James Cook University Campus Newspaper - Bullsheet, 10 October 2005.

Bryant, R
(2005) "RCNA News" Nursing Review, November 2005, p.10.

Message Stick program online
19 September 2005

Practice Nurses Practising Mentoring
by Donna Lennon, Project Officer Mentor Development & Support Association for Australian Rural Nurses

Professor (I)Rena Papadopoulos
Head of Research Centre for Transcultural Studies in Health,
Chair, Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions Research Team,
Chair, School Ethics Committee, School of Health and Social Sciences, Middlesex University,

Donna Lennon
Project Officer, Mentor Development & Support, Association for Australian Rural Nurses, Australia

Premier Pays Tribute to Trailblazing Indigenous Nurses
A book containing 23 fascinating stories about extreme courage and determination was officially launched today by Premier Peter Beattie on Thursday Island.

Speech Notes Presented By Peter Beattie MP
Premier And Treasurer of Queensland, 4 December 2005 at the Old Court House, JCU Campus, Thursday Island.

Speech notes for CATSIN book launch
Steve Larkin, Principal, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Adjunct Associate Professor, James Cook University, Wednesday 28 September 2005

Consumer Media Release (pdf 20kb)

Trade Media Release (pdf 20kb)

In Our Own Right: Black Australian Nurses

Published: 2005
ISBN:
978-0-9757422-2-8
Pages: viii+120
Imprint:
Verdant House

This book is available as a pdf from eBooks.

My Home The Block

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