Nurses and midwives honoured at NAIDOC event

USQ NAIDOC Week event celebrates eight decades of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives.

Smiles were plenty and hearts were full as stories flowed at the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) auditorium in Ipswich on Monday (July 9).

Eight decades of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives were celebrated during the USQ NAIDOC Week event, in recognition of this year’s theme, ‘Because of Her, We Can’.

People from across the country and the globe attended the event, eager to hear about the history of Aboriginal and Tories Strait Islander nurses and midwives and the legacies that have paved the way for future generations of women.

Nine notable nurses and midwives were present and honoured, including Torres Strait Islander woman and long-time nurse activist Aunty Dulcie Flower.

“It was very emotional but I was blown away by the humbleness of everyone,” she said.

“I have never received so many accolades and never been treated so royally by my fellow nurses in my life.

“It is important we continue to teach our young women to be true to themselves, be proud of their Aboriginality and for Torres Strait Islander women to be proud of who they are, and aim high – always aim high.”

The event was organised by Dr Odette Best, a registered nurse and an Associate Professor in USQ’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, who has had a long interest in the history of Indigenous nurses and midwives in this country.

Dr Best said it was important people knew the vital role Aboriginal and Tories Strait Islander women have played in the nursing profession over the decades, not just as carers but also as activists.

“We always focus on the deficit model when we discuss Indigenous health, but this event was dedicated to recognising the amazing contributions Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives have made to Indigenous health,” Dr Best said.

“Some of these women have had to fight against racism, segregation and policies, yet Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were still there on the frontline, not only nursing Indigenous people, but non-Indigenous people as well.

“They are the backbone of our communities and they have been doing this work for an incredibly long time without much recognition.”

Another highlight of the event was a video message from famous runner Cathy Freeman.

NAIDOC Week is held in July each year and is an opportunity to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Group of 12 women
(Clockwise from back left) Professor Bronwyn Fredericks, Dr Raelene Ward, Kirin Reis, Dr Anne-Maree Nielsen, Janet Blair, Professor Tracey Bunda, Mawn Young, Beryl Meiklejohn, Mary Martin, Dr Odette Best, Dr Gracelyn Smallwood and Dulcie Flower.