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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.