New Zealand-born nurse Anna Curtin is now sharing her skills full time with Aboriginal women and children in Tennant Creek after earlier completing a short-term placement with the Australian Government-funded Remote Area Health Corps (RAHC).
RAHC recruits urban-based health professionals as temporary relief staff to support the hard-working permanent health workforce in Indigenous communities across the Northern Territory.
Anna was offered a permanent role as women’s health nurse with Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation in June 2016 during her second placement.
She graduated as a registered nurse at Christchurch in 2010.
Her first employment was at a nursing home and she also worked on an acute surgical ward, specialising in ear, nose and throat.
Wanting to pursue new challenges and adventures, Anna came to Australia in February 2016. She had already gained accreditation with RAHC. Her first call-up was in March 2016 to Tennant Creek.
“I had to google Tennant Creek because I hadn’t heard of it before. I didn’t really know much about it,” she said.
“The staff at RAHC had said it was a nice place to go for the first time; it’s a big clinic and not incredibly remote.
“My first impression getting off the plane was it’s very hot and this adventure was really about to begin.
“I felt really excited. I felt I had made a good decision and I was keen to have a look around and understand where I was. It’s obviously very different to Christchurch. It was a wee bit confronting.”
Anna said the work includes wound care, chronic disease care, children’s health, women’s health, renal treatment and health promotion. She has acted as clinical nurse manager and worked through a meningococcal outbreak.
She said the patients were friendly and curious about where she had come from.
“You need to build trust and gain rapport,” she said.
“People are very interested to know what your story is, your background. It’s how they work out if they trust you or not.
“There are opportunities here that I would never get back home, both clinical and educational opportunities.
“There are unique experiences here. It’s an honour working with and learning about another culture. It blows you away, it’s very special.”
Anna said the main focus of her role was women’s health.
“One thing that I really like, that I’m really passionate about is educating and empowering women,” she said.
“There’s a lot of domestic violence and sexual violence. It’s important to educate women this isn’t normal and shouldn’t occur.
“Part of the role is empowering women to make decisions about their bodies and health. I’ve seen women become more confident and assertive, which is great.
“There are a lot of young women who have overcome alcohol and drug abuse. I’ve seen some go through rehab and come out and find employment, that sort of thing, which is very rewarding.”
Anna said the isolation posed a challenge, but she was fortunate to have made some great friends.
She said some of the health issues were shocking.
“I am dumbfounded that there are such large disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous,” she said.
“I understand the issues are multi-faceted, but it’s very confronting. I was blown away when I first got here that there are people younger than me who have heart failure, are on dialysis and waiting for transplants.
“It’s not really good enough and I hope to see and be a part of the change during my time here.”
Anna said the short-term placement through RAHC was a good way to gain exposure to the issues and challenges.
“RAHC are so supportive, kind and patient, they really look after you,” she said.
“I applied with a couple of other agencies, but stopped the process half way through because I was being treated like a number and not a person.
“RAHC treat you like a person and they really care about you.”
Anna said she enjoyed the Northern Territory lifestyle.
“I love Tennant Creek, the landscape is stunning,” she said.
“I enjoy the country life and the fun that comes with it. There’s nothing more amazing than the desert sky, day or night.
“It’s amazing just how much there is to be involved in; sports, arts, culture and community.”
Her advice to health professionals wanting a desert change was: “Just do it, live your life, enjoy new challenges and adventures.
“Prepare to be challenged clinically, learn a lot about yourself and make some unforgettable memories along the way.”