Emily Marshall

I always wanted to become a nurse. I was born at Moa Island in the Torres Strait. I was the last child from my family My parents had 10 children My Father was born at Mabuiag (Western Island) and lived at Moa, Dad was a Sanutary worker, a fisherman, gardner and would chop and cut firewoods and sell it for $5.00 to other village people.

Whenever my Dad brings from bush or sea we were told we have to eat what he catch and we are not allow to waste food My mother came from Yam Island an Eastern Island group Dad married Mum at Yam Island where they met and moved to live at Moa.

My Mother on the other side was a crafts women weaving mats, baskets island beads Crochet lava-lava and sew clothes from any loose material we get from the missionary clothing box when the mission boat sails into Moa Island.

During my Childhood years, my mother, Mrs Mair Levi was a Torres Strait Islander midwife back in the 1940’s to 1950’s who assisted many child bearing Islander women delivering birth of new born babies at Moa Island – Torres Strait.

My dear beloved mother who passed on in the early 80’s. My mother would always carry me on her back to other family homes whenever a woman needed her help.

The most extraordinary thing I can remember, when I was about 9yrs old, was when she said to me `Baby you sit here quietly outside this door covered with a red cloth hanging over this door while she went inside and closed the door.

I did not know what was going on, so I waited patiently outside. Other family members of the household would make me some damper with golden syrup to eat with a cup of tea or fresh coconut milk to drink.

All I could remember during this time was a little cry when mother had finish attended the birth. I would always ask my mother next time you take me can I go inside with you but she would say `You too little to know what’s going on’.

I always wandered until my sister, who was a teacher came home and surprised all the family, she was having labour pain and asked me to get her hot water bottle for her tummy. I was 14yrs old. I said to her, get up you lazy so and so as I raced down the steps to attend work assisting an English nurse Mrs Hill at a dispensary and kitchen duties for the men residing at a theological college.

At the dispensary would check haemoglobin primary school children, washing scabies infected sores, boiling bandages, rolling clean bandages, ironing linen etc, making beds and scrubbing floors with very hot water and phenile, clean toilets. All of this for $2.00.

While I was doing this job I also had to go to the college to start the lightning the wooden stoves I saw Mrs Hill hurried to our house. 1 told the cook I m going home to find out whoever probably sick.

Soon as I climbed up the stairs of our house I saw the red cloth hanging on the door. I shouted for my eldest brother is mum alright. My brother whispered Mum s okay, she s inside with Mrs Hill and my sister. Without hesitation 1 walked in and heard my little angel niece cry. Mum was attending my sister and Mrs Hill was wrapping my baby niece with cotton wool, only her little angel face was visible.

Then I felt sorry for my sister. Mum said Baby only 41b when born. Mrs Hill said to mum that my sister and her baby have to travel by boat to Thursday is in the morning for proper hospital care. Well 1 never seen my mother so angry with Mrs Hill she said to her 1 will not let my daughter and her infant child travel under this circumstances, 1 have been a midwife here on this island for a very long time before you come and have delivered many babies.

1 still remember this to this day. My mother said if you send my daughter on the boat, the baby will die. Sure enough this did happen.

Today these memories remain, but my little angel niece always remain in my heart. In reflection I realize what my mother s role as a midwife and through this ordeal I started thinking about how I always wanted to be a nurse.

During this time I was always doing the work until 1964 I heard about the first secondary high school to be located at Thursday Island where most of my school friends were attending. When Christmas came around my friends came home and 1 asked them What is it like at high school, what do you do?, my friends said it was really good, we do lots of things like economics, science, mathematics, English, history, French, typing, social studies and physical education activities.

They said you should come with us next year. I said I don t know I would have to ask my mum and dad.

When 1 finally came around to ask them they said No. 1 was very hurt but kept working for my $2. (one pound)

Secretly 1 went behind my parents back more so to speak, I sent a letter to the principle Mr H for access to further my education status.

In 1965 1 received the principles letter of approval to attend the high school. I showed the letter to my parents and my brothers and sisters. My parents did not believe this at first and was shocked but afterwards gave approval for my education. 1 attended high school to year 10 then left to work Registrar of Doicese of Carpentaria Office duties etc.

1 left Thursday Is. To see my eldest sister in Cairns as my second eldest brother wanted me to go to Winton to work. This did not happen, 1 ended up working with Old Queensland Railway in Townsville as a waitress in the Inlander from Mt Isa.

I got married to a soldier and raised a young family of my own. We transferred to NSW in 1980 s where I started working in a nursing home in 1982 up to 1989 when I entered Macarthur University NSW for nursing.

Whist attending University at NSW my clinical placement involves visit these hospital -Bankstown Hospital (Steralisation Surgical Equipments) Marrackville Hospital (preoperative/ postoperative): Liverpool Hospital Medical/Surgicaland Sutherland Hospital, Cardiac/ Respiratory and West Mead hospital (Day Surgery monitoring assessing clients.

The most interesting experience I had was when I was working at Sutherland Hospital Most of the professional health care givers were R/N s whom I get along really well with. During debriefing the next morning I was allocated to work another R/N respiratory ward, I was told by this nurse that there is an Asian lady whom all medical staff member has been trying to collect sputum sample form this lady and they cannot get an interpreter because all Asian family member cannot speak English

I ask the R/N I might have a go. So I went up to the lady room with an empty sputum jar I touch the client lightly on the shoulder she looks at me and was amazed and shocked to see me. I used body sign language to introduce myself and showed her my identification nametag. She gave me a smile, then I communicate with her using body sign language again and demonstrate pretend to spit in the jar She nods her head and continue to open her sputum jar and start spitting until the jar was half full She past the jar to me with a big relief smile informed the R/N about this and 1 sent the sputum to lab testing

All other staff members were surprised and ask me How did you manage to get that specimen I just said to them I used body language.

My husband got transferred back to Townsville and worked at a nursing home prior to completing my Bachelor of Nursing Science Degree to become a professional nurse.

After completing my degree 1 worked for three months at the mental health unit at TGH. Here I was subjected to discrimination and psych assessments to prove my ability to practice nursing. This was very disturbing and belittling to my self-esteem. My registration was restricted while undergoing psychological assessments until The CEO and Medical Officer Dr James supported me by contacting the Queensland Nursing Council and CATSIN Chair Sally Goold.

Sally was asked the Council to reassess me and I regained my full registration soon afterwards. From the bottom of my heart 1 thank Sally, who not only helped me regain my registration but also my self esteem.

I think now in reflection to my mothers nurturing role as an island midwife I too have taken her role in another aspect to provide holistic care to all my Indigenous people who need

my help despite of what I remember from what occurs behind the red cloth.

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