International Nurses Day on 12 May is an opportunity to recognise the achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives, writes Melanie Robinson, CEO of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM).
Melanie Robinson writes:
Both of these campaigns are about raising the profile and recognising the importance of nursing and midwifery in the health care systems across the world.
CATSINaM supports the purpose of the campaigns. However, our point of difference is the link of the campaigns to Florence Nightingale who is held up as the founder of nursing.
Nightingale lived from 1820-1910 and was born in Italy to an affluent British family and worked as a nurse during the Crimean war. She made it her mission to improve hygiene for patients and on the frontline of the war she was instrumental in cleaning and maintaining hygiene for the patients.
While CATSINaM acknowledges the good work of Nightingale, she was also a proficient writer and researcher who often wrote very derogatory statements about Indigenous people around the world, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.
In response to this early in 2020, CATSINaM made a decision to establish our own campaign to Recognise Black Nurses and Midwives 2020.
Our campaign is about acknowledging the value and strength that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives bring to the Australian health care system.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been Birthing on Country and practising traditional healing methods including bush medicine for over 80,000 years.
This is seen through the resurgence of the Ngangkari healers who are the Anangu who work across the central desert and into hospitals and clinics in South Australia, Western Australia and Northern Territory.
They use traditional methods to heal their people with great skill and wisdom passed down across generations. Read more about the Ngangkari healers here.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses and midwives are important to the Australian healthcare system because they understand the unique and diverse cultural needs of Indigenous Australians.
Through their own personal experiences and their spiritual and personal connections to their Country they are uniquely placed to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, women and their families.
Often this work is unrecognised or undervalued and CATSINaM members encounter racism and discrimination amongst their peers in nursing and midwifery. They often are treated unfairly and accused of being difficult or defiant when all they are doing is advocating and supporting the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, women and families.
They get burnout and treated poorly by the healthcare system with high expectations placed on their shoulders and working in systems that are culturally unsafe.
This is why more than ever the campaign to Recognise Black Nurses and Midwives is needed and at CATSINaM we will continue to advocate for and work with our members to ensure they are valued and supported.
At CATSINaM we know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, women and families value the nurses and midwives who come from their own mob and they know they will care for them between the two worlds.
I remember the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and families being so happy to see me and I could feel their sense of relief to have a nurse “who actually gets me and understands where I’m coming from”.
They would share stories and experiences with me that they would not tell my nursing colleagues and they trusted me to be their advocate and their voice with the doctors, other nurses and allied health team.
Melanie Robinson is CEO of CATSINaM. She was born in Derby in the Kimberley region of Western Australia and grew up on the Gibb River Road in Ngallagunda community. Follow on Twitter: @MelRuss72Watch out for her guest tweeting for @WePublicHealth from Monday, 18 May.