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Meet the 2021 Gayle Woodford Scholarship Recipient

2 Dec 2021

This year’s successful applicant for the Gayle Woodford Memorial Scholarship is Katie Yeomans, a proud Aboriginal Nurse of the Ngarigo Nation. A patient accumulator of the necessary experience, Ms Yeomans’ post-graduate studies in remote health represent the final step on her journey to nursing on Country.

Ms Yeo­mans had just wok­en up at 4pm from a well-earned rest after her fourth con­sec­u­tive night­shift in a Mel­bourne hos­pi­tal when she saw an email regard­ing her Gayle Wood­ford Memo­r­i­al Schol­ar­ship application.

I thought, okay, maybe they’ve just replied to my email,” she tells CRANAplus. But I opened it and the first thing it said is con­grat­u­la­tions. I thought, I can’t believe it… I was proud of myself and excit­ed. It means I can live my dream now. I’ve always want­ed to be a RAN since I start­ed nursing.”

Ms Yeo­mans’ fam­i­ly are from Ngarigo/​Monero Coun­try in the Snowy Moun­tains, but she grew up in Bra­iakaulung Coun­try in Trar­al­gon, Vic­to­ria. In 2013, she com­plet­ed a Cer­tifi­cate as an Abo­rig­i­nal Health Work­er and then, in 2016, her Bach­e­lor of Nursing.

I worked as an Abo­rig­i­nal Health Work­er in Trar­al­gon for a Com­mu­ni­ty Health Cen­tre and loved it,” she tells CRANAplus. 

It inspired me to be a nurse. I loved being out in com­mu­ni­ty, mak­ing home vis­its, check­ing on my Elders, giv­ing health advice and sup­port where need­ed. But I thought I would chal­lenge myself a bit more and go to metro and start­ed work­ing in Melbourne.”

After mul­ti­ple years of accu­mu­lat­ing expe­ri­ence in Victoria’s cap­i­tal, she’s eager to take the next step on her jour­ney to being a remote area nurse.

It just felt like the right time to ful­fil this next part of my career,” she says. Because I love being in com­mu­ni­ty so much, I want to go back to being on Coun­try. I do have Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple come onto the ward and it’s great that I can be there for them. But it’s just so much bet­ter to go and meet them in com­mu­ni­ty and help them in their com­fort­able place.

There’s still that fear around my peo­ple access­ing main­stream health ser­vices. Sounds bad that we’ve still got mis­trust around trust­ing the white man, but I think it’s real­ly impor­tant to get Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple in the com­mu­ni­ty because I think it does build that trust, that rela­tion­ship that is needed.”

Ear­li­er this year, Ms Yeo­mans applied for a remote posi­tion and pro­ceed­ed to the last stages of recruit­ment, but missed out on this occa­sion due to not hav­ing ICU and ED experience.

She did, how­ev­er, organ­ise a remote place­ment through the same organ­i­sa­tion for August 2021, but as Melbourne’s COVID-19 sit­u­a­tion wors­ened, she had to post­pone this – an unfor­tu­nate devel­op­ment, but one she has been able to take philosophically.

I have found that to be a remote area nurse you do need that ongo­ing, that fur­ther train­ing; to do the post-grad­u­ate, min­i­mal,” she says.
She now intends to work on her post-grad over 2022 and to enter a posi­tion as a remote area nurse in the not-too-dis­tant future, per­haps in Cen­tral Australia.

I hope to fly-in, fly-out because fam­i­ly is very impor­tant to me,” she says. But I might spend my whole life there – that’s also a possibility.”

I’m real­ly pas­sion­ate about Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple being on the ground lev­el with the com­mu­ni­ty,” Ms Yeo­mans con­tin­ues. I think it’s about work­ing with com­mu­ni­ty, ask­ing them what they want, rather than going in guns blaz­ing and push­ing our way through, say­ing you need to do this and improve this. It’s actu­al­ly ask­ing: What do you want from your life?’ and giv­ing that own­er­ship back.”

Ms Yeo­mans says that she hopes the fact she secured this schol­ar­ship can be an inspi­ra­tion for oth­er Abo­rig­i­nal nurs­es like her­self to pur­sue these opportunities.

Don’t be afraid,” she says. Keep push­ing towards your dream, because I didn’t think I’d get this schol­ar­ship, but here we are!”

Mon­i­tor our Awards, Schol­ar­ships and Grants page to apply for the Gayle Wood­ford Memo­r­i­al Schol­ar­ship in future years.