I Heart My People is a three-part documentary series on NITV (Weds 9.30pm), following several Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and emergency professionals. Below are some of their stories (as provided by SBS).
Stanley Ozies – Remote Aboriginal Health Worker, Derby
I’m a Senior Aboriginal Health Worker at the Derby Aboriginal Health Service in the Kimberleys. I got involved in I Heart My People to show how you can change your life – inspiring people to think about their own health and their lifestyle.
There are quite a few men and women that live a rough and tough lifestyle, some are too stubborn or proud to see a doctor or even get a health check. I’ve worked around people that used to say things like “nah she’ll be right mate. What do I need a doctor for? There’s nothing wrong with me”.
I was an underground miner for about ten years and then worked in the remote outback areas. I worked with quite a few characters, pretty tough sort of guys who had a lot of experience in the field, who became really good friends of mine.
However, when the topic of health or feeling sick came up, we’d just work it off and think nothing of it. Some of these men have now passed but one thing I can say is that they still had a long way to go. I suppose you can put it down to their pride, they could have gotten a health check sooner but I don’t think they realised the seriousness of their situation.
When I went into town for a break from working out in the bush, I was offered a job driving for the Derby Aboriginal Medical Service, picking up and dropping off patients from their homes. I started to take an interest in the medical side of things and then one day, a few of us were offered a trip to attend an all-male health conference in Adelaide. This conference opened my eyes. A lot of men’s health conversations were brought to the forefront – a whole range of subjects about male issues and wellbeing.
When I returned from the conference, I decided to start my training as a Health Worker. After I finished, I worked in the specific areas of men’s health, diabetes and eye health. My main concern was to try and encourage more men to visit clinics for health checks. I noticed that women had no issues seeking advice for health issues but the lack of men was concerning. I thought back to my work mates and to how I used to feel before.
However, aside from this, there are other reasons that Aboriginal men may not seek health checks – language breakdown, the preference to see a male nurse/doctor than female and many cultural reasons.
I participated in I Heart My People to raise awareness of this issue and to show people that they can change their lives. My aim is to help men to see reason and to start making health a priority – to not let that pride or stubbornness stop you from seeing a doctor. Don’t let old injuries catch up on you because you could pay the price with your life ending before your time.
Dr Sarah McEwan – GP Registrar, Port Hedland
Being followed by a whole film crew made the experience full on and exhausting at times but I always kept in mind that this was not at all about me but about getting a message out there to budding health workers that our occupations are exciting, challenging, rewarding and most of all, heaps of fun.
My journey into medicine and to where I am today has certainly not been without its own set of challenges, but it has been accompanied by significant reward, which I do not take for granted.
I feel that due to the role that I have, I aim to be the best role model and leader for our people that I can possible be. I see it as my duty to give back as much as possible. Even if that involves being filmed by an entire film crew for a couple of days to demonstrate what life is like for doctors working in rural hospitals.
I feel truly blessed for the opportunities that I have been provided so far in life and I am excited by the potential opportunities that await other young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for the future. There are many avenues available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to strive towards success these days; many more than were available to our parents and grandparents.
In my opinion, the first step is to get a solid high school education, to maximise all opportunities provided to you from this platform and then align yourself with good mentors that you aspire to be like – don’t be ashamed to ask them to give you advice on how to follow your desired career path no matter what that might be. I have had many mentors throughout my journey and I still have mentors that guide and assist me to continue to pursue my ultimate career goals.
At this stage in my career I am hoping to continue to build upon my medical knowledge and add in management skills to be able to assist guide and shape our health care system to continue to be a fruitful and workable system for all Australians into the future with the major priority of continuing to strive for health equity for our mob.
I am hoping that the viewers are able to identify with us as real people who have come from different backgrounds but share the one passion – to drive change and improvements in the area of the health of our people.
I hope that the viewers, especially those interested in the health field get an honest insight into what our lives as health professionals are like and I am hoping that those with the interest might be inspired enough to embark on that same journey as we have all undertaken.
I hope audiences get a sense of how rewarding a career in medicine can be. There are challenges and responsibilities that come with having such a career but ultimately with the right drive and passion and with the right support structures, the end goal of a profession in medicine can be attainable.
Patrick Martin – Emergency Rescue Helicopter Officer, Cairns
A little while ago I received a call from a friend of mine (who is also originally from the Torres Straits) inviting me to be a part of an upcoming project she was working on with Carbon Media Production Company called I Heart My People.
We met over lunch on the beautiful sunny esplanade here in Cairns with some of her work colleagues to get a run down on what was involved, the ideas they had and the style in which they wanted to showcase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the various medical and emergency professions throughout Australia. I was excited to be a part of the project.
I immediately felt at ease with the idea of filming at the base. It’s one thing to try and explain to people what you do at work and how you do it, but as we all know, a picture paints a thousand words.
I was pleased we were able to capture some flying time of a typical airborne tasking operation in Cairns and how one minute we can be on a standard inter facility transfer (which is picking up a patient up from a small hospital and flying them back to Cairns or Townsville) and the next, we can be called for a rapid response out to the reef to extract somebody with a potential life threatening condition.
Having a film crew following you around intensely was an interesting experience. Two things immediately happened. The first is amongst my fellow crew members, a target had magically appeared on my back for my workmates to try and make me laugh (which isn’t hard to do) and the second was telling yourself, “That’s not your walk”! For some crazy reason, I developed a “rescue walk” which is puffed up chest and a weird stride like you see in the movies to which I had to say CUT!!!
I have been blessed to have worked in helicopter rescue for over 15 years as both a Rescue and Aircrew Officer. I find it highly rewarding working for a rescue organisation dedicated to saving lives and flying in sophisticated aircraft with a highly motivated team.
This is my dream job! I’m drawn towards the spontaneous aspects of the role, not knowing what you could potentially be required to do for each shift. The challenges faced in hazardous and sometimes extreme environments also excite me. I hope to establish myself as a “good operator”. Working in Helicopter Rescue is a job where I feel I will always be constantly learning as no two rescues are identical.
I’m hopeful the viewing audience will take on board and appreciate the challenges faced by the various stories featured in this piece and value the representation of both the traditional and professional backgrounds. This is an insightful and positive documentary aimed at producing a positive vibe for us all to see.
Gemma Armit – Trainee Paramedic, Palm Island
Gemma Armit is a Trainee Paramedic based on the remote Indigenous community of Palm Island. Gemma’s mother is from Palm so she finds it rewarding to be able to give back to her community and her people through her role in the Queensland Ambulance Service.
I enjoyed the experience of being involved in I Heart My People, having a film crew following me on the job but it did feel strange, I didn’t expect that being a paramedic trainee would create such an opportunity to disseminate my role through this medium.
My First Officer during the filming was my Officer in Charge Paramedic who been since the beginning of my traineeship. He transferred a few weeks after the filming had finished and having been in the job on Palms for more than 4 years at that time he was my fantastic mentor and a wonderful friend and still is today. Sharing the filming experience with him was very memorable. He was a great support and being filmed together seemed appropriate.
The program should provide a great opportunity for viewers to have an inside look at the work that I’m involved in, as a trainee paramedic, especially in my own community. Hopefully the viewers can appreciate the effort, challenges and rewards that paramedics face on a daily basis.
Whilst the viewers will see the many challenges to health and wellbeing of people in communities, they will also recognise the rewards experienced by these health workers – I feel very positive and satisfied in knowing that I am helping others, particularly my people on Palm Island, with diverse health issues.
Since the filming, I have qualified as a Paramedic and intend to stay in the job for a long time. Becoming a paramedic was one of my goals and one step on my ladder of life. My next step or goal is to study nursing and attain a nursing degree. This will add to my ability to help people, especially the disadvantaged communities which include my own. This work may include travel, but it is important to me to take one step at a time.
I hope that by watching the program people will see that if you ‘put in the hard yards’ it will pay off. My journey to where I am now has not been an easy one, but I did not give up. The journey had low times and high times. With the support of my partner, family, mentors and friends, I was able to meet the challenges of the job and study.
I would like to think that many people, both Indigenous and non-indigenous will benefit from watching my efforts in I Heart My People. I would hope people will believe in themselves and recognise their potential and hence the many possibilities open to them. My advice to them is to be determined and surround yourself with positive, supportive and loving people.
Above all, don’t give up.
The series also features Margaret Martin, a registered Midwife, working in one of Perth’s busiest hospitals, who one day dreams of being able to open a birthing facility in the Kimberley for Aboriginal women to access in a culturally sensitive environment, and Jeremy Batt, a Sports Massage Therapist based in Brisbane, who has a long association with the Redcliffe Dolphins football club.
• I Heart My People, Wednesdays, 9.30pm on NITV (Ch 34 free-to-air and Ch 144 Foxtel)