In Our Own Right: Black Australian Nurses' Stories


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

Dr Sally Goold OAM
Senior Australian of the Year 2006

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