Aboriginal nurse in Queen’s honours

Up at dawn and home long after dusk, Mrs Isaacs is passionate about helping Aboriginal people understand, accept and access western health care services.

Her selflessness has been rewarded, with the mother of two named on the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

She was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia.

�I am so thrilled and happy and I thank the people who have nominated me � I didn�t expect it,� Mrs Isaacs said.

Growing up in Broome, the 69-year-old began nursing at Broome Hospital when she was just 16 years of age.

Working as a missionary helper from 1967-69, at Saint Francis Xavier Mission in Wandering, sticks in her mind.

She took on the �mother� role, caring for boys aged five to 12, who had been taken away from their parents by the government.

�There must have been about 10 little ones � the poor darlings, I would put them to bed then go back to my quarters and these kids were in a big dorm,� Mrs Isaacs said.

�Then I�d go in the morning and wake them up for school.

�I just wanted to help these children.�

In 1977, working as an interpreter, she took up a position at Lockridge Community Health Centre.

She then started working as a clinical nurse with the Aboriginal Medical Service in 1979, now known as the Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service in East Perth.

As one of only two Aboriginal nurses working out of a car, she continued in a community outreach, interpreter and cultural liaison role.

The Langford-based nurse earned the respect of Aboriginal people from several communities and language groups, during her 36 years with the Health Service.

She now works at the Elizabeth Hansen Autumn Centre, which provides accommodation and support for critically- ill Aboriginal patients from the Kimberley region who need renal dialysis.

Her career has been both rewarding and heartbreaking.

�I saw an old lady from Port Hedland; her only son was sick. To see her in a big hospital with no care or support� I sat trying to tell her that her son was very sick,� Mrs Isaacs said. �I told the nursing staff to keep an eye on her because as soon as her son dies she will wail and people will get frightened of her wailing.

�The next day I came to see her and the old lady was in the psychiatric ward and I was a bit upset about that.�

Mrs Isaacs has had a fruitful career and she hopes her progress will make a difference to future generations.

�When I see people get better and go home I feel so happy,� she said.