RESPECT: Dr Odette Best when she won an ward for indigenous service.
RESPECT: Dr Odette Best when she won an ward for indigenous service.

Why we should recognise Indigenous nurses and midwives

THE many Indigenous nurses and midwives that paved the way for future generations will be celebrated next week.

Associate Professor in the University of Southern Queensland's School of Nursing and Midwifery and nurse herself, Dr Odette Best, is organising the NAIDOC Week event,

She said this was the first time these women had been celebrated as a group.

"I suspect nursing and midwifery gave us our first western qualifications," Dr Best said.

"Personally, I walk on the shoulders of these giants who made it a much easier journey for me as an Aboriginal nurse.

"They need to be honoured and with this NAIDOC year's theme being Because of Her We Can, well it just seems appropriate."

At the event eight women representing eight decades of service from the 1940s to now will be recognised for their contributions to nursing and midwifery and seven will attend the ceremony.

 

Isabelle Ferguson graduating in 1948. She will be recognised at a Naidoc Week event on Monday. It was tradition for the girls to be thrown in the pond upon graduating. Ms Ferguson was a member of the Aboriginal Progressive Association and worked tirelessly for the 1967 Referendum. She further went on to own and be the Matron of Aminya Nursing Home at Caloundra.
Isabelle Ferguson graduating in 1948. She will be recognised at a Naidoc Week event on Monday. It was tradition for the girls to be thrown in the pond upon graduating. Ms Ferguson was a member of the Aboriginal Progressive Association and worked tirelessly for the 1967 Referendum. She further went on to own and be the Matron of Aminya Nursing Home at Caloundra.

"We don't get to often talk about the good things about Aboriginal health. One of the women started in the 1960s and still serves today, two have received Order of Australia medals. They are activists in their own rights."

The historian said she had found records of an indigenous nurse dating back to 1905.

"It is a privilege to be able to celebrate eight decades of living Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives.

"We are so used to hearing about Aboriginal health as a deficit.

"This highlights though that Aboriginal women and Torres women have been active service providers of care in some instances for decades. It's about redressing the deficit discourse of these women."

Dr Best said it was important that both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people knew about the history of Aboriginal and Tories Strait Islander nurses and midwives.

"We are extremely fortunate and honoured to have eight inspirational nurses and midwives, including Aunty Dulcie Flower, joining us on the day.  

"By sharing their stories, we gain a better understanding of the challenges they faced and can recognise them for their considerable commitment to Indigenous health in this country."

The event NAIDOC Honouring Elder Professionals of Nursing and Midwifery will be held at the USQ Ipswich auditorium on Monday from 9am-10.30am.

On Tuesday, a group of senior Aboriginal women will share their expertise in Indigenous health, education and community development as part of a panel discussion in Springfield.

The panel will include Aboriginal activist Professor Gracelyn Smallwood and is being held at the USQ Springfield auditorium from 10am-12.30pm.

For more information, or to register, visit www.usq.edu.au/events/2018/07/naidoc-week.



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