In Our Own Right: Black Australian Nurses' Stories

Reviews of In Our Own Right

Practice Nurses Practising Mentoring

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

I've always been interested in peoples' stories. How did the person get to where they are? What motivated and inspired them along the way? What kept them going when things were a bit tough? What were the highlights of their journey? Inevitably what emerges are astonishing elements reflecting the complexities, hardships and joys of everyday life, as well as our great capacity to weather them.

I was privileged to attend the launch of 'In Our Own Right Black Australian Nurses' Stories' at the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses conference in September. This work is a collection of stories from 23 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses from across Australia and was co-edited by Sally Goold (OAM) and Kerrynne Liddle. An added facet to the book for me was that I already knew some of those who shared their nursing journey. So, it was with great delight and relish that I was able to purchase my copy and squirrel away to my motel room to start to read the stories.

Two things struck me as the narratives opened up and I gazed at the photos of the nurses in the book. The first was that these were extraordinary stories. The nurses openly shared the pain and joy of their journey, which included not just the trials of being Aboriginal nurses in a white health care system, but personal aspects of their lives during these times as well. To be 'allowed' to know these stories is a privilege for the reader.

The stories are also testament to the difference that a small group of people can make. Registering and enrolling as nurses was by no means the end of any of these stories. In fact it was the commencement of very full and hectic careers that for many continues to focus on improving conditions for Aboriginal people. It's inspirational stuff.

The other thing that appears from the text is a vivid picture of the cultural divide portrayed by the experiences of the story tellers, such as the painful reality of the stolen generation, episodes of exploitation, prejudice and hardship. While patients, community members and other nurses created barriers to the Aboriginal nurses during their journeys, there were also individuals from these groups that provided support. Ultimately however, it was clear that passion, determination and sheer grit enabled these nurses to achieve their goals.

While the book provides sobering glimpses into the experiences of Aboriginal Nurses, it is also a commentary that prompts reflection on basic issues of who we are and how best to embrace diversity to ensure the health of all communities. After all, promoting health and caring for others is what motivated most of us to pursue nursing in the first place.

I had only one disappointment in relation to the book - I forgot to take it back to the conference the next day to have it signed by some of the authors! I highly recommend that all nurses read this book, which provides a deeper and more complete understanding of Australian nursing history.

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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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