Working for Change in Aboriginal Health
Joan is a passionate Aboriginal health worker. She is dedicated to her profession and wants to see an end in the health disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Born and bred in Halls Creek, a small town in northeast Kimberley, Western Australia, Joan is working for change to close the gap in Aboriginal health.
After finishing high school in Perth at 17, Joan returned to Halls Creek to lay the foundations for her new career. Growing up in a large family and having 4 of her own children and now 20 grand children, for Joan, there was no questioning her career destiny. She wanted a rewarding job in which she could support her people and her family, so she pursued a job in the health industry.
Joan’s work has taken her to many places across Australia. Starting out as a receptionist at Halls Creek Community Health Service (HCCHS) she worked her way up the health industry’s corporate ladder. Joan’s primary training was with the HCCHS, where she worked closely with the local nurses. Much of her training was on the job. Her work took her to the local community to weigh the babies and bring in any clients who needed more health attention. She was with this service for 6 years until she was approached by then CEO, Henry Councillor at Yuri Yungi Medical Service (YYMS). Her work has taken her to Kununurra, where she lived and worked for two years, to Derby, Halls Creek and Queensland. Joan learnt a lot working in Ipswich, Queensland. “I really liked Queensland. It was different to Halls Creek. Having worked in another state was good for my experience – you see how they operate in another organisation. It was challenging at times, but I learnt a lot and brought back my knowledge to Halls Creek.” There were a few things Joan found challenging in Queensland. Coming from a small Kimberley town, Joan reflects, “the only thing I didn’t really like about Queensland was the drive into Brisbane. There was just so much traffic, it was daunting.”
As the need for Aboriginal health workers grows so too does Joan’s passion to support and grow the Aboriginal health workforce. After returning home to Halls Creek, Joan is at YYMS as the Practice Manager managing 20 staff, including two registered nurses. She is happy to be back home. “I am very passionate about what I do. I am passionate about health. I find it so rewarding, especially if you have a family. Knowing when your child is sick and that you can take him to the doctor is important. As health workers, we are here to treat people and better their lives.” Joan is working hard to instill these values in the community and her family. There are a lot of challenges promoting a future in health, such as travel and training. Joan won’t let these barriers quash her drive as she works to consolidate her workforce in Halls Creek with local workers and empowers by leading by example in the health industry.