De­fy­ing racism to pur­sue her dreams

Sally Goold is a role model for younger gen­er­a­tions

Sunshine Coast Daily - - WEEKEND - JA­NINE HILL

AS A 16-year-old, Sally Goold could not un­der­stand why peo­ple scoffed at her plan to be­come a nurse.

She could not do that, they told her – she was Abo­rig­i­nal. “Of course I will,” she said. And she did. She be­came the first Abo­rig­i­nal stu­dent nurse em­ployed at the Royal Prince Al­fred Hos­pi­tal in Syd­ney, and one of the first Abo­rig­i­nal nurses in New South Wales.

Mrs Goold, now re­tired and liv­ing on Bri­bie Is­land, still can­not quite ex­plain how, as a teenager, she put racism and ad­ver­sity be­hind her to pur­sue her dream.

“I was puz­zled by it, I can tell you, but I didn’t be­lieve it” she said.

“I thought, ‘This is what I’m go­ing to do’ and I did it.”

She thinks her dream to be­come a nurse stemmed from hos­pi­tal ad­mis­sions as a child.

Af­ter leav­ing school at 14, she worked in a re­tail store un­til she was old enough to ap­ply for nurs­ing.

Mrs Goold never found out why the Royal Prince Al­fred ma­tron de­cided, upon in­ter­view, to give her the op­por­tu­nity to be a nurse when so many oth­ers had told her it was not pos­si­ble.

“I am eter­nally grate­ful to her for giv­ing me a go,” she said.

“But the hi­er­ar­chi­cal struc­ture of nurs­ing then, and I think it still is, but not as much, was so well-de­fined that for a young per­son to ap­proach a se­nior per­son was un­heard of.”

So proud was Mrs Goold’s fam­ily when she was ac­cepted into nurs­ing that her par­ents and six sib­lings chipped in to buy her what she needed to start her new ca­reer.

Her old­est brother, a mar­ried fa­ther of three, gave her the win­nings from a horse race to buy her text­books, while an­other sib­ling and their spouse bor­rowed money to buy her a nurse’s watch.

Mrs Goold worked in var­i­ous hos­pi­tals over the sub­se­quent years, and was ap­proached to help set up and run the Abo­rig­i­nal Med­i­cal Ser­vice in Red­fern with Fred Hol­lows and nurse ac­tivist Dul­cie Flower.

She later moved to Queens­land to work in coro­nary care.

She re­mem­bers the Abo­rig­i­nal Med­i­cal Ser­vice as a tough job where de­mands were high and re­sources scarce – do­na­tions of pharmaceuticals were sourced from chemists and her wages were paid by the Abo­rig­i­nal Le­gal Ser­vice.

“But it was a good time. It was in the ’70s and it was just when Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple were start­ing to as­sert them­selves,” Mrs Goold said.

“Fred Hol­lows was great. He was a lovely per­son, and his wife, Gabi, is a lovely woman, too.”

Mrs Goold went on to com­plete a de­gree and masters in nurs­ing, and lec­tured at univer­sity for six years.

She has re­ceived an Or­der of Aus­tralia for her ser­vices to nurs­ing ed­u­ca­tion and Abo­rig­i­nal health, a Royal Col­lege of Nurs­ing Distin­guished Nurs­ing Award, and an hon­orary doc­tor­ate in nurs­ing from the Royal Mel­bourne In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy.

She has also served a term as a CMC com­mis­sioner and sat on the Abo­rig­i­nal Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Coun­cil.

Mrs Goold said racism was never far away dur­ing her ca­reer.

“Many tears were shed” over dif­fi­cult or un­rea­son­able su­pe­ri­ors or racist pa­tients while she was train­ing.

And al­though great ca­ma­raderie ex­isted among the young nurses she trained with, there were times dur­ing her ca­reer when she felt “bar­ri­ers” against her.

The bar­ri­ers, while dis­tress­ing, were not in­sur­mount­able and most of the time she was so fo­cussed on the job that a lot of it “went over my head”.

Sev­eral years ago, Mrs Goold was stunned to read the com­ments of a tu­tor sis­ter who had writ­ten on her train­ing re­port that “this nurse is to­tally in­ca­pable of learn­ing”.

“I thought, ‘If she could see me now’,” she said.

The young Sally had failed her ini­tial ex­ams. But the tu­tor sis­ter’s com­ments had failed to take into ac­count her dis­ad­van­taged back­ground or that she had never re­ally stud­ied be­fore.

You fo­cus. You have to fo­cus on what it is you want to do, and keep your eye on

the prize.

Sally Goold

Dur­ing re­search for her masters de­gree on why Aus­tralia had so few Abo­rig­i­nal nurses, Mrs Goold found racist at­ti­tudes and dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tices by aca­demic staff and stu­dents, and staff and pa­tients, contributed to­wards low num­bers of Abo­rig­i­nal nurses, and that pro­mo­tion of the pro­fes­sion to Abo­rig­i­nal stu­dents, and sup­port sys­tems for them as they en­tered the pro­fes­sion, fell short.

Mrs Goold es­tab­lished the Congress of Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­der Nurses in 1997 to en­cour­age more Abo­rig­i­nals and Tor­res Strait Is­lan­ders into nurs­ing and to stay in the pro­fes­sion.

“I’m pleased to say it has im­proved,” she said.

To oth­ers strug­gling, whether in nurs­ing or other pro­fes­sions, she had one sim­ple piece of ad­vice. “You fo­cus,” she said. “You have to fo­cus on what it is you want to do, and keep your eye on the prize.”

PHOTO: JOHN MCCUTCHEON

TRAIL­BLAZER: Sally Goold was one of the first Abo­rig­i­nal nurses in NSW.

had A PA­TRIOT: Sun­shine Coast 2014 Aus­tralia Day am­bas­sador Sally Goold.

IN­SPIR­ING: Fred Hol­lows.

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