NGAIRE Willis’s ambition to work as a nurse in the Torres Strait Islands received a boost this week with the presentation of the Lucy Harris Award at University of Southern Queensland (USQ) Fraser Coast.
The Lucy Harris Award of $1000 was initiated by Dr Vernon Harris to assist student nurses who elect to take clinical experience in Indigenous Australian communities.
“I’m very excited and grateful to receive this award,” Ms Willis of Hervey Bay said.
“My intention is that when I get more experience I’d really like to go remote, especially in the Torres Strait Islands. This award will help towards that.”
Semester 1 recipient Dee Woodgate said the Lucy Harris Award helped her reach her goal to work with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) in Charleville.
In June she completed the two-week practical component of the USQ Bachelor of Nursing program with the RFDS in south-west Queensland.
“That was wonderful experience that helped me grow as a nurse,” Ms Woodgate said.
“It showed me different skills, how to bond with people in rural and remote areas and how to develop and hone the skills needed to work in Indigenous communities.”
USQ Fraser Coast Associate Professor (Nursing) Clint Maloney congratulated Ms Willis and praised the foresight of Dr Harris in providing the ongoing funding initiative.
“This sort of award opens up really good gateways to work in rural and remote areas that students otherwise couldn’t afford to do,” Associate Professor Maloney said.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to make strong connections with rural and remote people particularly in Indigenous populations.
“The whole premise behind this award is that the student is using it to build a platform of their own professional knowledge they intend to use in professional practice after they graduate.”
Dr Harris generously donated the award money on behalf of his late wife Lucy who devoted over 30 years of her life to nursing.
She started in 1938 and throughout World War II nursed casualties from the bombing in London and tutored pupil nurses at the Prince of Wales Hospital.
After the war Mrs Harris was a midwife for three years before starting missionary training with the Church Missionary Society U.K.
In 1951 she went to Nigeria to teach and train nurses for London University’s new University College Hospital, Ibadan.
There she established a children’s ward and assisted Professor Jelliff with research into sickle cell anaemia and child malnutrition. She also established two clinics for Nigerian members of University staff and their children. Mrs Harris left Nigeria in 1959.
In Australia she nursed premature babies at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Canberra, in 1964 and then joined the Canberra District Nursing Service, retiring in 1976.