Kathy of the Com­mu­nity

LifeStyle Wimmera - - INSIDE - By Peter Miller

She’s just a small town girl but Kathy Poul­ton is the em­bod­i­ment of what it means to be a com­mu­nity mem­ber. Whether it’s driv­ing an am­bu­lance, help­ing to save lives, pump­ing petrol, pub­lish­ing the lo­cal news­pa­per, coach­ing net­ball or nurs­ing, Kathy’s life path has led her to a very spe­cial place.

Her var­i­ous roles are sim­ply the con­se­quence of a girl who won’t say ‘no’ to her com­mu­nity.

Kathy finds it amus­ing that she could be the sub­ject of a fea­ture ar­ti­cle.

To her mind, she is one of many with a sim­i­lar level of de­vo­tion – and she is prob­a­bly right.

But let’s go there any­way. Kathy was born and raised in South Mel­bourne.

Her mother was also a city girl but her fa­ther had grown up at Beu­lah, and when Kathy was a teenager, he moved the fam­ily back to his Mallee roots.

Kathy at­tended school at Beu­lah and then War­rackn­abeal be­fore the fam­ily moved back to Mel­bourne.

When she fin­ished school, Kathy got a job work­ing for OPSM in Collins Street.

She en­joyed her work and was con­tent with her life but still trav­elled back to

Beu­lah for hol­i­days and to visit fam­ily.

It was dur­ing one of these vis­its she met Mal­colm Poul­ton, who worked for the fam­ily busi­ness Poul­ton Mo­tors in Hopetoun.

“We met on the fore­shore of Lake Las­celles while I was wa­ter ski­ing with friends. I’m not sure but I think it was my red bikini that grabbed his at­ten­tion,” Kathy laughed.

In 1982 as the ro­mance blos­somed, Kathy left her com­fort­able city job and moved to Beu­lah where she worked at the lo­cal ho­tel as its very first fe­male bar­tender and played net­ball among other so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties.

Two years later she and Mal­colm mar­ried. Kathy was sud­denly a res­i­dent of Beu­lah’s ri­val neigh­bour Hopetoun where she and Mal­colm started a fam­ily.

Per­sonal tragedy made life tough for the cou­ple af­ter a se­ries of mis­car­riages and the tragic death of their first baby boy Kade on Easter Satur­day, 1987.

But heartache was less­ened by the joy­ous ar­rival of Brit­tany the fol­low­ing year and later broth­ers Co­han and Keaton.

In 1998, when Keaton was in grade three at pri­mary school, Kathy was asked to be­come a vol­un­teer am­bu­lance of­fi­cer with Ru­ral Am­bu­lance Vic­to­ria.

The town had sev­eral vol­un­teer of­fi­cers in­clud­ing Mal­colm. She jumped at the op­por­tu­nity.

The po­si­tion re­quired monthly train­ing which Kathy still at­tends now, though it has be­come much more in­volved.

The role also nosed her closer to the ca­reer she had al­ways felt was tug­ging at her time­line – nurs­ing.

Kathy was con­sid­er­ing ca­reer op­tions when Mal­colm de­cided to leave the fam­ily busi­ness, al­low­ing the cou­ple to set up their own small-engine re­pair ser­vice and man­age the BP ser­vice sta­tion.

They raised their chil­dren ‘on petrol fumes’ in a home be­hind the auto-shop, while the busi­ness en­dured the re­gion’s long­est drought in liv­ing mem­ory.

In 2006, Kathy’s pas­sion for a nurs­ing ca­reer had taken hold and she de­cided to go back to univer­sity.

Dur­ing her sec­ond year of study, Mo­bil asked Kathy to man­age its ser­vice sta­tion in Hopetoun while Mal­colm was kept busy with engine re­pairs.

She took on the role with the sup­port of her fam­ily who helped where pos­si­ble.

Her rou­tine sud­denly be­came work­ing the ser­vice sta­tion from Satur­day to Wed­nes­day then at­tend­ing classes in Hor­sham each Thurs­day and Fri­day.

As times got tougher and the drought took its toll, Mo­bil closed the busi­ness and Kathy was sud­denly look­ing for work.

Then, out of the blue, she was ap­proached by lo­cal farmer Barb Hal­lam to see if she was in­ter­ested in be­ing the new edi­tor of the lo­cal news­pa­per.

Like many small news­pa­pers, the Hopetoun Courier is owned by the com­mu­nity and Barb is a long-stand­ing board mem­ber.

Al­though she was still study­ing for her nurs­ing de­gree, Kathy ac­cepted the role and af­ter just one week of on-the-job train­ing, she was left alone to pro­duce a weekly news­pa­per.

What she hadn’t re­alised was that she also had to look af­ter the ac­counts.

Her new role pre­sented a whole new set of ob­sta­cles, but be­ing the ar­che­typ­i­cal coun­try girl, she showed re­silience and in­ge­nu­ity.

Kathy re­mem­bers mo­ments in class at Hor­sham when she would be writ­ing a story for the pa­per un­der the desk so the in­struc­tor couldn’t see.

Pho­to­graphs

Kathy net­worked with other news­pa­pers to pick up tips on writ­ing, photography, graph­ics and lay­out.

And she al­most al­ways took the cam­era with her when she was called out in her am­bu­lance role.

“I would throw the cam­era in the back just in case,” she said.

I love my job. I have a sup­port­ive man­ager and a won­der­ful team I can talk to when the day has been dif­fi­cult. If I can make a dif­fer­ence today I don’t care about to­mor­row

“It might have been a lit­tle naughty but I never took pic­tures at ac­ci­dents or where it was per­sonal,” she said.

“But if it was a more public in­ci­dent we were at­tend­ing such as a bush­fire, I would take a few pho­tos when I had an op­por­tu­nity.”

Kathy grad­u­ated as an en­rolled nurse at the end of 2007 and started work­ing ca­su­ally for Ru­ral North­west Health at its Hopetoun cam­pus.

She worked her hours later in the week af­ter the pa­per was put to bed.

By 2012, the draw to nurs­ing grew stronger as Kathy stud­ied fur­ther and gained more qual­i­fi­ca­tions, so it was time to re­move her news­pa­per hat.

In 2014, Kathy was ap­proached by Ru­ral North­west Health man­age­ment to pioneer an im­por­tant new role as the re­gion’s cancer-re­source nurse, and sud­denly her ca­reer had taken on a whole new mean­ing.

Kathy sup­ports com­mu­nity mem­bers liv­ing with cancer to make sure they are get­ting the right in­for­ma­tion and treat­ment and util­is­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate ser­vices avail­able.

Speak to any of her clients and they will tell you how fan­tas­tic she is at her role.

Kathy be­lieves she is now do­ing the job for which she was des­tined.

“As busy as I am now, I feel that my whole life has come to this point,” she said.

“I had to learn so much more and it has given me a great un­der­stand­ing and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for how the health sys­tem works and how ev­ery minute im­pacts on res­i­dents, clients, the com­mu­nity and the ser­vice.”

Kathy also con­tin­ues her role with Am­bu­lance Vic­to­ria.

She shuf­fles that role around six days a fort­night as a cancer-re­source nurse, one day as a pal­lia­tive link nurse and one day as a nurse in aged care at the Hopetoun cam­pus.

Kathy be­lieves Hopetoun has such a strong com­mu­nity be­cause there are many peo­ple who ded­i­cate them­selves to com­mu­nity as much as she does.

“Peo­ple who in­flu­ence my life are not fa­mous. They are lo­cals who say ‘I can do that’ or are just will­ing to give it a go,” she said.

Kathy said she wasn’t try­ing to make ‘a dif­fer­ence’ or make things bet­ter.

She just wanted to build on the foun­da­tions of oth­ers.

“I love my job. I have a sup­port­ive man­ager and a won­der­ful team I can talk to when the day has been dif­fi­cult,” she said.

“If I make a dif­fer­ence today I don’t care about to­mor­row.”

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