Dedicated pair honoured

Up at dawn and not getting home until dark, Mrs Isaacs is passionate about helping Aboriginal people understand, accept and access western health care services.

Her passion and selflessness was rewarded with the mother of two making the Queen�s Birthday Honours List. She was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in the general division.

�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 her nursing career when she was 16-years-old at Broome Hospital.

But, working as a missionary helper from 1967-69 at Saint Francis Xavier Mission in Wandering still 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, 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, the Aboriginal interpreter took up a community-based position at Lockridge Community Health Centre.

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

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

The Langford-based nurse has earned the respect of Aboriginal people from several communities and language groups, having worked for the Health Service for the past 36 years.

She is now 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 and her only son was sick. To see her in a big hospital with no care or support� I sat with her 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.

n Aboriginal elder from the Bibilmum Noongar language group and former City of Gosnells councillor and deputy mayor Robert Isaacs was named 2015 Western Australian of the Year.

He is also Teresa Isaacs� husband.

Dr Isaacs was the first Aboriginal person to be elected to local government in WA.

He was also instrumental in establishing Clontarf Aboriginal College, which is the nation�s first indigenous school in Waterford.

As a member of the stolen generation, Dr Isaacs has dedicated the past 50 years to breaking down cultural barriers and improving the lives of disadvantaged people.

�I feel deeply honoured and grateful receiving this award on behalf of the community of Western Australia, most of all the Aboriginal community who have put their trust in me to represent them on Aboriginal affairs,� he said.

Dr Isaacs received an Order of Australia medal in 2002, is chairman of the Australia Day Council of WA and earned a citation for the Aboriginal Award at this year�s WA of the Year awards.