Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Sue’s life changing outback challenge

Local nurse Sue Tuck spent a month working in outback Western Australia recently.

November 13, 2012 4:54am

Sue Tuck with some friends she made in the Balgo community.

At the end of August, local nurse Sue Tuck had the opportunity to challenge herself in her career.

She packed her bags and headed to Balgo, a remote Aboriginal community of about 200 people in the middle of the Kimberley Desert in WA, for one month.

Sue said the trip is one of the highlights of her 33-year career in nursing, and said another remote placement was definitely on her to do list.

‘‘From the breathtaking scenery and surrounding landscape, the wonderful staff I worked with and the amazing local people, the experience was truly incredible,’’ she said.

‘‘I went in to this adventure with an open mind and heart, and truly ready to embrace the local culture.

‘‘The people are friendly and very welcoming, and it was heartwarming to get to know a few of them quite closely over the month I was there.’’

Being a remote community, Sue said adjusting to the lifestyle was a little difficult at times.

‘‘There is only one shop in Balgo with basic groceries that come in by road once a fortnight,’’ she said.

‘‘Other supplies such as mail and clinic needs are all flown in, so the little airport is a busy place.

‘‘It is also a ‘dry’ community, which means no alcohol, so I did enjoy a nice cold glass of bubbles when I got home.’’

While there were a number of differences, Sue said so much was still the same as being back home in Deniliquin.

‘‘The culture is very different, and you have to be respectful of that, but these people have their chronic illnesses and social issues like any community anywhere.

‘‘They also love their footy and I was given a lot of cheek when I told them I barracked for Collingwood! They thought it was hilarious and we shared lots of laughs.

‘‘The people live a simple, basic lifestyle not burdened by technology, and the kids are always running around playing footy or basketball.

‘‘The kids are gorgeous - they are so happy and affectionate and always keen to give or receive a hug.

‘‘They deal with their fair share of chronic health problems, but they are tough and strong and very brave.’’

With the help of a group of Deniliquin mums, Sue collected a 23kg bag of clothes to take for the children in Balgo.

‘‘I had a lot of fun giving some of these (clothes) to the little ones, and got some delightful photos of them proudly showing off their new dresses.’’

The social aspects of the remote community was a real eye opener for Sue, and she said the medical side of the trip was also an amazing experience.

‘‘The clinic is busy. It is staffed with a doctor who also visits Mulan and Billiluna during the week, Aboriginal health workers, and the best bunch of nurses who are also terrific hosts and proud to show you the area and beyond.

‘‘Aside from day-to-day acute presentations to the clinic, we also educated the patients on issues regarding chronic health issues such as diabetes, iron deficiency, anaemia and recurring ear infections. We also ensured immunisations were kept up to date.

‘‘We would also drive around and collect patients to take to the airport for their x-ray or specialists appointments in other towns, and blood pathology could only be done on Thursday and Friday (before 11am) so it could be flown into Broome on the Friday mail plane.

‘‘So there was no luxury of having these services on site.

‘‘I was also lucky to meet the Royal Flying Doctors Service when they would fly in to transfer people to hospital, and got to board the planes and have a look at the set-up.

‘‘It was an incredibly life changing experience and one I will definitely repeat in the not too distant future.’’

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