In Our Own Right: Black Australian Nurses' Stories


Click on the map link under each author to link to the Aboriginal Australia Wall Map, which will give an indication of the locations mentioned in the stories.

Sadie Canning MBE
My story - The beginning, childhood, ambitions and achievements: On April 11th 1930, I was born in the bush according to traditional Aboriginal custom under a tree, on the outskirts of the mining town of Laverton, in the North Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia. Laverton is almost 300 kilometres north-east of Kalgoorlie.
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Joan Winch AM
I have always had a vision for our people - a vision that one day our health status would be equal to, or better than that of non-Indigenous Australians... The name Marr Mooditj means 'good hands' in the Noongar language of Western Australia. Mooditj means 'good' and Marr means 'hands'. I am a Nyoongar-Martujarra woman. Born in 1935, and like many Aboriginal people of my generation, I grew up in a world where many people disguised their Aboriginality in a bid to try to overcome oppression.
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Jilpia Jones
General Nursing Training at Cairns Base Hospital 1962-1966: I entered nursing school to complete my general nursing certificate in the early part of 1962. It was necessary to wait for a birth certificate from Western Australia before I was fully accepted in nursing training. However, no such certificate could be found. I did not have one. You see I was born in the sand of the Great Sandy Desert in the 1940s, so instead my father recorded my birth in the station horse book.
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Professor MaryAnn Bin-Sallik EdD (Harvard)
Matrilineally I am of the Djaru nation. Our land is in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia and includes the famous Bungle Bungles tourist attraction. My Aboriginality is one that has been constructed from lived, shared, cultural and historical experiences, which have been both rich and proud, though painful at times, but very peculiar to Indigenous Australians. I am currently a professor of Aboriginal Studies and the Dean of Indigenous Education and Research at the Charles Darwin University in the Northern Territory of Australia. I left Darwin in 1974 as a nursing sister and returned in 2001 as a professor.
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Ros Pierce
My story is dedicated to my husband, daughter and granddaughter: I am a Ngarrindjeri woman, and my people are traditional owners of land around the Coorong in the upper south-east of South Australia. Since a very early age, I have had it in my heart and blood to do nursing. I left school at the age of 17 and entered the nursing profession by undertaking a hospital-based program at the South Coast District Hospital. 1701 words Map

Faye Ryan (nee Clarke)
My name is Faye Clarke and I am a Koori/Nunga woman: I was born in Melbourne, but my family came from elsewhere. My grandfather came from the Gunditjmara and Wotjaboluk people and my grandmother from the Muandik and Ngarrindjeri people in the south east of South Australia. My grandmother had grown up in times that were a lot more difficult. When her mother left them, Grandma had to raise her younger siblings for a while until an Aunty took them in. All the while they knew to keep a low profile and keep out of the way of the Welfare so the younger ones wouldn't be taken.
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Shane Mohor
My first introduction to the idea of a nursing career was through watching an uncle who worked as a nurse. I also remember as a primary school student standing up in a class and announcing that I wanted to work in social work and welfare. I thought initially that meant I wanted to be a social worker, but I later realized that nursing was what I wanted to do. 1438 words Map

Lowitja O'Donoghue AC, CBE
I was born in 1932, at De Rose Hill Station in South Australia's far north. My mother Lilly was a Yankunytjatjara woman and my father Tom O'Donoghue was Station Manager. I was removed from my mother when I was two. It was 1934 when I was taken by the United Aborigines Mission with my two sisters, Amy and Violet, to Colebrook Children's Home for Half Caste Children at Quorn in the Flinders Ranges. My other siblings, my brother Geoffrey and sister Eileen were already there. I stayed there for nine years before being shifted to another home in Adelaide. Like many other children in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Lands I too was taken from my family as part of the assimilation policies of the time.
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Janine Cox
I completed my nurse training and was registered in Tasmania on 12th September, 1960.
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Sharon Dennis
From when I was young I always had an interest in Nursing. I do not know why, it was just something I thought I would always do. No-one I knew was a nurse, but I liked the idea of caring for people and sharing part of my life with them.
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Karen Atkinson
I was born in Mooroopna at Shepparton in 1959. Most of my life I remember living in an institution of some sort. There was Allambie Babies Home, Alexandra Babies Home, Winlaton - a correctional facility at Nunawading in Melbourne and Ballarat Orphanage. I left the orphanage at aged 15.
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Barbara Browne
With little formal education I embarked on a life of studying and nursing. I was attracted to nursing because I saw it as a way that I could remain in the country and work, and I liked caring for people. Born in the New South Wales rural township of Balranald in 1948, I was the second of ten children to Elsie Hawkins, nee Black. Mum was a drover's labourer and while she set up home in Bourke she often needed to pack up her brood and follow the work, droving cattle through Queensland. What my brothers, sisters and I missed out on by way of formal education we made up through life education.
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Kerrie Doyle
I am a Territorian. I came to the central coast of New South Wales when I was about eight to live with my mother, grandmother and great grandmother. My father stayed working as a drover, amongst other things.
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Vicki Bradford
I was born in Dungog in country New South Wales north west of Newcastle. I am the eldest of four children. We moved away from Dungog when I was five years old to Toronto in the Lake Macquarie Area. We moved to Blackalls Park when I was 12 years old and remained there until I left home. I didn't know any nurses and hadn't thought of nursing as a career before I was faced with looking for a job. When I reached the age of 17 I applied to go into the army but was unsuccessful.
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Roslyn Lockhart
I was born and raised in the small rural community of Jerilderie in the Riverina district of New South Wales. I have three great children, a good husband and supportive family. As one of the few Aboriginal families in Jerilderie we stood out, but I don't recall much racism. My mother believed very strongly in the power of education. She was a nurse and I remember how as kids we often joked that if we could convince mum that the toy, trip, or activity we wanted would help us learn - and somehow it was linked to our education, then she'd get it for us.
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Sally Goold (nee Bamblett) OAM
I am a Wiradjuri woman. I was born at Narrandera in south-western NSW. Narrandera is situated on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River. My father, Archie George Bamblett, son of Archie (Jerry) Bamblett and Sophia Cornelius Wedge from Yass, was born on Warangesda Mission at Darlington Point. My mother, Eva Lilly Scott was born at Forbes New South Wales, daughter of Alice Sloan from Condobolin and Matthew Scott, from Canowindra, NSW.
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Alecia McKeown
Why I wish to become a nurse. My name is Alecia and I am 22 years of age. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to become a nurse.
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Gary Torrens (MR T)
My time at Australian Catholic University was great. The Aboriginal Unit based at the University was known as Weemala, which comprised of both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal staff. They were just fantastic.
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Ellie Gaffney
Divine intervention or sheer determination; I think perhaps both of these things helped me make the decision to become a nurse. I was only 14 years of age when I realised racial discrimination might be a barrier to fulfilling my dream of being a nurse. Like other Indigenous nurses of the era, I encountered discrimination and prejudice, but my determination to succeed was stronger than the hurdles put before me by those who thought, and hoped, I would fail. The discrimination wasn't just from white people.
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Emily Marshall
MY STORY OF THE RED CLOTH: Dedicated to my dear loving mother I always wanted to become a nurse. I was born at Moa Island in the Torres Strait and was the youngest of ten children.
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Noela Baigrie (nee Fogarty)
It is a delight for me to share my nursing journey and be included in this book with my 'sister girls'. It is a wonderful honour to be on the executive of CATSIN; to nurture and guide our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and to share my wisdom and knowledge about caring for people. Aboriginal people were not classed as citizens until 1967. This was also the year that I started nursing. Due to my sister's persuasion and influence with the hospital Matron of the time, I was allowed to commence my training at Barcaldine Hospital. Because the hospital was short of nurses, I was able to start when I was only sixteen years old.
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Carmen Parter
Beyond nursing: To be a nurse was a childhood dream. When I look back at the challenges, I often wonder how on earth I survived, particularly being black, a woman and Aboriginal. I'm a descendent of the Darumbal Clan and was born in Bowen, Queensland. I am the second eldest daughter of four girls born to Noel and May Parter. In 1967, my family moved to Orange in central west NSW.
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Diana Ross (Sister of St John)
It is possible for me to talk about a successful career in nursing because of the love, strength and support given to me by my parents, my family and my dear husband Ralph who passed away. This story is dedicated to them. On a river bank under a birthing tree of the Kaanju tribe of Cape York, a baby daughter was born to a tribal woman and a non-Indigenous male. This child was my mother Trixie. For the first few years of her life mum was kept hidden from the authorities (police on horseback who were employed specifically to keep checking on the Aboriginal tribes and their behaviour) and who had the job of removing Aboriginal children from their mothers. After years of being rubbed with charcoal to blacken her fair skin in an effort to more easily escape the authorities, at four years of age my mother Trixie was finally caught and taken away from her family to Yarrabah Mission south of Cairns.
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Dr Sally Goold OAM
Senior Australian of the Year 2006

Book Launch
By Peter Beattie MP
4 December 2005

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