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Inala Indigenous Health Service - Nola White

Nola White

The following is an article written about Sr Nola White when she featured on Do Something Real. This website showcases inspirational stories in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and kindly gave us permission to reproduce their article here.

If you really want something and you work hard enough, you will achieve" - that's been Nola White's guiding philosophy since she began her nursing career as a 16-year-old.

Now 60, and a registered nurse, she encourages young people to get into Aboriginal and Torres Strait health and experience the good and the bad, the happy and sad. A member of the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses, she is always trying to recruit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nurses.

"Nurses have got to be dedicated," she says. "It is hard work. There are a lot of social issues.  We see a lot of sad things.  I love all my patients, and I'm sad when they're sad, but it is the circle of life."

A descendent of the Ghungalu Clan, Nola has been instrumental in improving health care services to Brisbane's urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.  Nola started as a hospital-based nurse, and worked with Dr Noel Hayman, establishing the Inala Indigenous Health Service in outer Brisbane. This was the first service within Queensland Health's mainstream health system tailored to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, and it will shortly house a multi-million dollar centre for excellence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

With a grade 8 education, Nola started nursing training at Ipswich Hospital in 1967. "We all had to live in the nurses' quarters, and after work you'd go from floor to floor of the hospital helping your fellow nurses to finish their work," she recalls.  "All this time later, some of us are still friends.

"Treating sick people is just my forte.  It's something I love.  Since 1981, I've chosen to work in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. It wasn't something I planned.  I'd had two children and the shift work was getting to be too much, so I moved to an Aboriginal Medical Service and stayed there for 12 years.

"In 1994, Dr Noel Hayman employed me to help him start the Inala Indigenous Health Service.  He could see that mainstream health centres were too unfriendly, and having an all-white staff made Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients uncomfortable.  He sought community input and consulted with the elders.  They agreed that there should be an Aboriginal nurse, so that was me.

"Inala is a low socio-economic area with a significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.  We are an Indigenous health service within a mainstream health system.  When we started out, we had no rooms and we'd see 10 patients in a week.  I'd go out with Tony Williams, an Aboriginal drug and alcohol counsellor, to parks and places like that to see people.  Then we got some rooms, and it's kept growing and growing.  We now have a team of 30 who do more than 10,000 consultations a year.  I'm really proud of what we've achieved. Maybe this was my destiny.

"When you're working in the community, you're seeing people getting better and seeing their results, for example, side stepping the effects of diabetes and living longer.  If we can save one person from blindness or dialysis, then it's worth it."

Although care is taken, this site, and links from it to third-party sites, may possibly contain the names or images of people who have passed away, which may sadden and distress some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Website editor Justin Coleman 


Last updated: 6 August 2012