Life’s work recog­nised

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - News -

IT is hard to pin down a time to chat to Abo­rig­i­nal nurse Teresa Isaacs, who has com­mit­ted the past 40 years to pur­su­ing bet­ter health out­comes for Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple.

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

Her pas­sion and self­less­ness has been re­warded with the mother of two mak­ing the Queen's Birth­day Honours List.

She 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 69year-old be­gan her nurs­ing ca­reer when she was 16-years-old at Broome Hos­pi­tal.

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 – 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, 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 .

As one of only two Abo­rig­i­nal nurses work­ing out of a car, she con­tin­ued to take on com­mu­nity out­reach, in­ter­preter and cul­tural li­ai­son re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

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.

She de­scribed her ca­reer as both re­ward­ing and heart­break­ing.

ABO­RIG­I­NAL el­der from the Bi­bil­mum Noon­gar lan­guage group 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 - 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.

He re­ceived the Or­der of Australia in 2002 and is chair­man of the Australia Day Coun­cil of WA.

Pic­ture: Mar­cus Whisson­mu­ni­ d438433

Medal of the Or­der of Australia re­cip­i­ent Teresa Isaacs with her hus­band Robert.

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