In Our Own Right: Black Australian Nurses' Stories

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.

Mr Beattie said it was an honour to launch In Our Own Right: Black Australian Nurses' Stories.

He said that his wife, Heather, had told him about the book and had quite accurately described it as a wonderful book about some amazing women.

“The women in this book had to overcome great challenges," Mr Beattie said.

“It's great to welcome four of the women whose inspiring stories appear in the book, including editor Sally Goold.

“Sally has done a fantastic job in gathering together the stories of 23 nurses from all over Australia.

“The stories all have one common thread. These brave women had to do it alone.

“They had no role models to guide them in their careers - they were true trailblazers.

“Sally was the first aboriginal student nurse at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney and as far as she knows, the first in New South Wales.

“Sally went on to forge an outstanding career as a nurse educator and is the driving force behind the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses.

“The Congress wants to help do something about an appalling imbalance - 2.4 per cent of Australians are Indigenous - yet Indigenous nurses account for just 0.05 per cent of Australia's registered nurses.

“This book will help to do something about that because it will be an inspiration to Indigenous people that it is possible to climb that mountain.

“It's also great to have with us today three other contributors to the book - Diana Ross, Ellie Gaffney and Renee Blackman.

“Ellie was the first Torres Strait Islander to become a qualified nursing sister.

“Recently, Ellie has been in Thursday Island Hospital as a patient. Some of the staff attending to her she delivered as babies!”

“Some of the nurses today were motivated to take up a career in nursing by Ellie's autobiography Somebody Now," Mr Beattie said.

“In the book In Our Own Right: Black Australian Nurses' Stories, Ellie recounts the story of how she came up with the title for her autobiography, published in the 1980s.

“When Ellie was first a nurse at Thursday Island Hospital, her own father was there as a patient. He told her he was ashamed to see her giving orders to a white nurse's aide.

“He said to Ellie - "Who do you think you are? Jus cos you bin go south, you think you somebody now!”

“So Ellie called her book "Somebody Now". It has been used extensively in teaching Indigenous nurses.

“Today, Indigenous people doing nursing don't have to do it on their own.

“They have colleagues around them making the same tough journey.

“There are currently 72 Indigenous undergraduate students enrolled across the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Molecular Sciences at James Cook University.

“Of these, 43 are nursing students. They are spread across campuses at Thursday Island, Bamaga, Mt Isa, Cairns and Townsville as well as being enrolled in the external study mode.

“Some of these external students are on islands across the Torres Strait.

“The first intake of nursing students graduate from the Thursday Island campus in the next few weeks after having commenced their course when the campus opened here in 2003.

“It is no easy task completing a full-time degree at a newly established campus in a remote setting. Congratulations to Sean Taylor, Ali Drummond and Cathy Parker on their achievement.

“James Cook University will also graduate its first class of doctors this year and it is worth noting that among the first graduating class from the JCU Medical School are two indigenous students.

“Congratulations to Shannon Springer and Bradley Murphy.

“I hope that this book and the stories in it inspire many more Indigenous Australians to take up nursing or other careers in health and to stick with it.”

December 4, 2005
Media contact: Paul Cronin (07) 3224 4500 or mobile 0418 795 940

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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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