For lecturer, researcher and author Raelene Ward, the journey to NAIDOC 2018 from her hometown of Cunnamulla has been filled with hard work and sisterhood. Her story starts in south west Queensland, as a Cunnamulla student dreaming of becoming a nurse. “I found healthcare to be a place where I could excel and also give back to the Aboriginal community in some way. That was my passion,” she said. “Since then, I’ve brought my gained knowledge into university life to pass on to our future generations of nurses.

Throughout the next two weeks, University of Southern Queensland will hold an event at each of its campuses to celebrate Indigenous history and culture, with particular consideration to the NAIDOC theme this year, Becuase of Her, We Can. “There are goose bumps on my arms as I think about the company of women who will feature at these events. I’m honoured to be part of that tradition,” Mrs Ward said. She’ll join organiser Associate Professor Odette Best, Professor Tracey Bunda, Dr Kathryn Gilbey and Aboriginal activist Professor Gracelyn Smallwood at a panel discussion at USQ Springfield today (July 10). This follows a NAIDOC – Honouring Elder Professionals of Nursing and Midwifery event at USQ Ipswich yesterday (July 9). “I hold these women in such high regard. It has been people like Professor Smallwood who have lobbied for better conditions and responsibilities for our community,” Mrs Ward said. “I’ll certainly grow from their knowledge, their experience and their support.”

Mrs Ward has spent her time at USQ imparting expertise honed by her work as a registered nurse and practice manager in Aboriginal Health. Her contributions to textbook Yatdjuligin: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nursing and Midwifery Care helped to attract accolades from the prestigious Educational Publishing Awards. “We’ve recently produced a second edition – an extended version – which is used within our current nursing program at USQ as well as other nursing programs throughout Australia,” she said. “Among my greatest achievements is being able to mentor Aboriginal health workers who then became registered nurses themselves, and also helping to embed Indigenous perspectives in curriculum as we teach up-and-coming health professionals.”

NAIDOC Week is held in July each year and is an opportunity to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

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