Life’s work recognised
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.
Medal of the Order of Australia recipient Teresa Isaacs with her husband Robert.