Donna, Noreen and Samara go back a long way. In fact, Donna has known Samara since Samara was a toddler. Donna was a pre-school teacher at the day care centre Samara attended, along with Donna’s daughter.
And Donna and Noreen are cousins. All three join Regina Meldrum as trainees at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, under the Centre for Education and Workforce Development (CEWD) training program for indigenous people.
Donna Millgate is a Weilwan woman and she grew up in Gulargambone, or Gular for short. It was an idyllic country town of 500 people, a great place to grow up. But a lot of the industry the town supported has gone now. It was once a vibrant hub for shearing and cropping. But the years of droughts have taken their toll.
She and Samara Robinson are administration trainees, Donna in the hospital information service and Samara in admissions. Both of them are enjoying the on-the-job training they get at Lifehouse. After a study block at the Rozelle campus the two women have thrown themselves into their roles.
“I love the contact with all the different people in the hospital and I’m really happy in my team”, says Donna. She’s doing a bit of everything including tracking files and delivering them to clinics.
Samara’s Pop is from the Bundjalung tribe, but her Nan was one of the stolen generation so she hasn’t really connected with her people.
She’s been learning how to book patients in for surgery and prepare files for when they come in.
“I’m watching the other staff and learning how to talk to patients who are arriving for surgery, which is a big deal.”
She thinks the program is great and feels very supported. She hopes the two-year program will lead to an offer of employment at the end.
Noreen Saunders Carr and Regina Meldrum have come on board as trainee assistants in nursing (AIN).
Their training began at the CEWD where they were practical skills like how to lift a patient and transfer them from bed to sitting up or into a wheelchair, doing ‘obs’, taking blood pressure and blood sugar and the necessary work health and safety education – essentially everything to give patients the care they need.
Noreen is buddied up with another AIN and they go around and help the nurses.
“I love where I work and the team I work alongside. It’s such a great feeling having the opportunity to be the first indigenous women to work at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse as a AIN representing my culture,” says Noreen.
Her father is also from ‘Gular’ and her mother is from Taree where the Biripi people are.
Regina enjoys the variety of the work. “I get to work with all of the team on different days. They are really supportive and encouraging,” she says.
The Olkola people, Regina’s tribe, are from North Queensland, near Cairns.
All four women are looking forward to celebrating NAIDOC Week on Friday. Regina is going home to Mareeba in Queensland to spend the weekend with her kids.
“NAIDOC week is a time to come together, see the family you haven’t seen for a while. It’s good to sit down and have a laugh and watch the dances and performances. It’s great way to celebrate our culture,” says Noreen.
Noreen usually goes to Yabun. Her brother, who is a rapper, performed there last year. “He tells the story of where he comes from, his childhood.”
Samara and Donna will be joining community events in Redfern where they both live. Samara’s cousin is running one at Redfern Park.
“I live around there so I’ll know everyone there. It’ll be great to walk around and catch up with people,” says Samara.
Donna’s looking forward to it too, “It’s a big day out with stalls, singing, dance, football, karaoke – there’s a bit of everything. So many people get there.”