ABOUT OUR PEOPLE

At Nganampa Health, our people are our greatest strength.

We are a community of primary healthcare professionals united by our desire to make a difference, and we understand the power of every small step.

We embrace the diversity of our challenge and thrive on the rewards that come with it.

We learn and experience something new every day, and we are supported by the professionalism and spirit of our colleagues and our organisation.

Meet Bernie Wilkinson

Locum Remote Area Nurse

Meet Bernie Wilkinson

Locum Remote Area Nurse

Coming from an indigenous background, Bernie is passionate about providing important health services to remote aboriginal communities as a Community Locum Health Nurse.

“I always wanted to be able to give back to my people, and being a nurse means that I can provide valuable and sometimes life-saving services to those with limited access to health care.”

All the way through university, Bernie was interested in what it would take for her to become a Remote Area Nurse (RAN) and the experience she needed for the role.

In fact, years before she joined Nganampa Health, while she was still studying, she spoke with the organisation to learn what the roles entailed.

“Right from my first conversation with NHC, I knew it would be a great place to work. I liked the management’s matter-of-fact approach and supportive culture. It was my goal from the beginning of my career to work in remote
communities.”

Bernie reports that one of the best things about her job is the opportunity to have full autonomy in her role. Unlike working with hospitals, remote area nursing gives individuals the chance to improve health outcomes for patients from beginning to end, without the restrictions.

As a Locum Health Nurse, Bernie has applied to similar organisations during her tenure with NHC, and she’s chosen to withdrawn these applications due to her experiences during the recruitment process.

“NHC is a highly organised and professional organisation. I’ve had dealings with similar organisations and NHC is by far the best. Unlike some of the other health councils, you can be confident that when you accept a contract with NHC, they’ll do everything they say they will and help you every step of the way.”

In the challenging role of remote area nursing, Bernie says she loves her job. With highly competitive remuneration and the flexibility of a fly-in-fly-out locum role she has the opportunity to make a positive impact and also spend time with her family back home.

“There’s a great culture, a huge amount of respect for management and a friendly, inclusive team spirit. We’re all supported by management and empowered to do the best we can for our communities.

For anyone out there who’s thinking about a career as a RAN, I’d highly recommend NHC as the best choice.”

Meet Fortunate Pemhiwa

Remote Area Nurse

Meet Fortunate Pemhiwa

Remote Area Nurse

After 9 years as a Remote Area Nurse (RAN) with Nganampa Health, Fortunate shares with us the rewards and challenges of working in a remote part of Australia.

With a background in emergency and clinical roles, Fortunate was looking to expand his experience and see more of outback Australia. Having worked in regional locations throughout his nursing career, remote area roles greatly interested him.

“I was attracted to the level of flexibility and diversity offered by RAN positions. Unlike other roles, I have autonomy in the services I provide and I’m not limited to supporting only one particular patient type. With NHC I work with everyone from newborns to the elderly and see all kinds of medical conditions including emergencies, elderly issues, chronic disease as well as the opportunity to provide health advice and disease prevention.”

“The work is never boring. I wouldn’t be able to go back and work in one department dealing with one type of medical condition again. It wouldn’t be challenging enough.”

Speaking of challenges, Fortunate says that he has encountered difficult patients from time to time, as have many health workers across Australia.

“It’s part of the role, and it can be stressful, but I do feel a duty of care to help them, even if they’re uncooperative. Our nursing teams have safety and security protocols in place and if a situation is deemed violent or abusive then we won’t attend. NHC always makes the safety of their employees their number one priority.

Living in a remote area isn’t for everyone. It's isolating to be so far away from civilisation, but NHC offers good leave and return flights each year which works well for me.”

NHC is an Aboriginal-owned and managed health service and this was one of the reasons behind Fortune’s decision to join the organisation.

“The NHC management model isn’t hierarchical. They don’t have the red tape and politics because they have ownership of the service and focus on the needs of the community.”

“I’m lucky to have developed lots of long term friendships with my colleagues. Some of the nursing staff have been here for as long as me, or longer, and that camaraderie and support of my colleagues is something I really enjoy.

We feel like a big team, and as a team we contribute directly to the community and actually make a big difference in the lives of our patients. With NHC I feel like my opinion is heard, my input valued and work is like my favourite hobby that I do every day.”

Meet Marg James

Personal Care Attendant

Meet Marg James

Personal Care Attendant

Beginning her career as a relief Personal Care Attendant with Ngnanampa Health’s Aged Care Facility, Marg James has enjoyed over seven years with the organisation and can’t imagine going anywhere else.

“I have friends who work for other organisations and it’s nothing like Ngnanampa Health. Their conditions aren’t as good. We get paid more money, have excellent housing and nice meals while we’re working, and recreational leave every 12 weeks, which is a massive bonus.”

Perhaps more importantly, Marg reports that the workplace culture is second to none. “The people at NHC all have a positive and optimistic ‘give it a go’ attitude that’s so important for remote area communities. Everyone is invested in helping the people of the lands and doing their bit to make a difference.”

“There’s nothing I don’t like about the role. I’m there to care for the patients and I just get stuck in. It’s a hard job but teamwork and the fantastic support from management make it so worthwhile.

Nganampa Health is the most wonderful company. In other organisations you’re always pushing management for the things you need and they never deliver, but here we put our patients’ priorities first and the staff get what they need to make everyone’s lives better.”

“I’ve made some very close friendships during my time here. I have even travelled with my colleagues during our holidays and we socialise as a team occasionally, when our shifts allow. My friends are one of the reasons I enjoy my job so much.”

Marg says she’s always encouraging people to apply to work with NHC. “I love my job and NHC is one of the most friendly and generous companies you could ever ask for.”

Meet Yvonne Fitzpatrick

Accounts Manager

Meet Yvonne Fitzpatrick

Accounts Manager

After 25 years in the Alice Springs office as an Accounts Manager, Yvonne says her biggest motivator has always been to help people on the lands.

“We’re here to help the communities within the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands. We operate seven clinics across the region as well as an aged care facility, and run health related programs like aged care, sexual health, environmental health, health worker training, dental, women’s health, men’s health, children’s health, immunisation and mental health.”

“We’re really a one-stop-shop for our local community’s health needs, and it's such an important job. I feel like over the last 25 years we’ve made so much progress and it feels very rewarding to know that I played a part in that success.”

The health service prides itself on a strong national reputation for best practice clinical services, cutting edge program research and improving client health outcomes. These successes include achieving child immunisation rates of between 90% to 100% and increasing the number of health checks from 84 in 2003/04 to 943 in 2013/14.

After 25 years, Yvonne isn’t planning on going anywhere. Her goal is to stay with Nganampa Health Council until she trains up her replacement and retires. “It's such a warm and friendly working environment. We get together for monthly morning teas and socialise. Getting together with the teams is a good way for me to understand what others are doing within the organisation and helps me feel connected with my colleagues.”

“I would absolutely encourage anyone to apply. Working here is a good life experience. It teaches you to have empathy and compassion for other people and embrace the differences between cultures. While it is good money, at the end of the day, I can’t put a price on the impact I feel I’ve helped create within the lands.

I feel so lucky that I’ve been able to have this experience, gain some valuable life lessons, and feel enlightened by another culture. I have so much respect for the communities living on the lands and all my colleagues who work closely with our patients everyday to deliver incredibly valuable services.”

Meet Sally Burton

Remote Area Nurse

Meet Sally Burton

Remote Area Nurse

For community health nurse Sally Burton, losing multiple staff to remote healthcare placements set her on a new professional path.

In a past life, Sally was working in a hospital in a managerial role and preparing for semi-retirement when, after fielding call after call from nursing agencies seeking references for her staff to go on locum placements, she decided to shake things up and give it a go herself.

“I was getting all these calls from agencies asking for references and the more I heard the stories from nurses working in a remote setting, the more interesting it sounded and the more excited I got about giving it a go myself,” Sally says.

Sally started locum work with Nganampa Health in 2012. “I thought I’d do it for a year. Well, the rest is history. I wasn’t thinking I’d go out and save the world, but it was something new, something exciting and it offered travel, further education in nursing, excellent money and the chance to experience a completely new world and fascinating work.”

For Sally, working with the local community, living on the APY Lands and being part of the Nganampa Health community brings as many rewards as it does challenges. “This is a really challenging position on the front line of primary health where you are not just learning to work within a culture that is different to your own, you also need to understand the limitations of how much you can help.”

“I obviously do feel frustrated from time to time as we’d all like to make an even bigger impact but what we do is so often about small, powerful steps.

Over time, I have gotten to know the Anangu people better and they have accepted me which makes a huge difference to the care I can provide.

One of the best things about being here is that every day I am learning something new, so academically and professionally, I feel extremely fulfilled.”

Sally says that her rewards at Nganampa Health come from a mix of ongoing education and bettering her practice and herself, as well as professional satisfaction and salary.

“It is far more financially beneficial to work in a remote setting in health care, but that’s not what drives me. The work is so varied and I love the autonomy and responsibility of my job that definitely beats being in a hospital.”

It’s not just the local community and professional satisfaction that provides a sense of satisfaction. Sally has forged lasting bonds with her colleagues, who she describes as being more like family.

“Because of the setting and the challenge, the friendships you make with teammates are somehow stronger than those you make elsewhere.

“I’ve worked overseas and at Nganampa Health it feels a bit like the ‘expat’ community you have when you are away from home. And because you don’t have all the comforts you are used to, everyone chips in and makes an extra effort for each other.”

So, what does her future at Nganampa Health look like?

“Considering I thought I’d stay for one year and it has been a lot longer than that, I think I’ll be here for a while still. I can’t see myself working anywhere else as I haven’t found anything that appeals as much as working for Nganampa Health.”

Meet Zibeon Fielding

Aboriginal Health Worker and Nursing Student

Meet Zibeon Fielding

Aboriginal Health Worker and Nursing Student

Zibeon joined Nganampa Health only a couple of years after leaving high school. Now in his fourth year with the organisation, Zibeon has completed a Certificate IV in Primary Health Care and is close to completing his Nursing degree. From day one, Zibeon’s experiences have been nothing but rewarding.

Having grown up in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands, Zibeon was always aware of NHC and the support they offer the community. After working in another community-focused role, Zibeon decided that health care was where his interests and passion lay.

“When you hear about Aboriginal people having a lower life expectancy than other Australians, you get a real sense of wanting to help your people. I’m Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and the best way to help is through health – and that means promoting the basics of good food, health and hygiene.”

Zibeon’s work with NHC is incredibly varied and allows him to gain experience across all aspects of health care, which he finds much more appealing than working in a specific hospital department. He loves this diversity and is motivated by the everyday challenges he faces in his role.

“You do a lot. You are never just focused on one area. For people who come to us for the first time, and for follow ups, we’re making sure everyone gets the very best health care available to them. That’s my aim.”

Zibeon plays a vital role in the health of people of the APY lands and he is also a translator for community members who have an English barrier. This is an incredibly important ability for Zibeon. “Health care needs to be holistic. You need to be hard working and help people, but it’s also being able to go out there and talk with people. Having yarns can help people a lot.”
Zibeon feels that the culture at NHC is supportive, respectful and motivating – which is important when working in a challenging environment.

“You do deal with challenging things every day, but you have experienced staff here you can fall back on and reach out to for advice. We’re all here wanting to achieve the same goal and that definitely motivates you and makes you want to be a better person and help people. Leaning on other people who are out here pushes you forward. We all get through the day together.”

Zibeon strongly encourages people to join the NHC team. He is proud of the people he works with to better the health of the community. “It’s a great organisation and they definitely provide you with good care and they look after you. We have wonderful staff and I take my hat off to everyone working across the APY lands. If you were a patient stepping through our doors you’d see a nurse or health worker who is humble, respectful, warm and welcoming. And that matters a lot.”

Meet Lee Lawrie

Health Worker & Nursing Student

Meet Lee Lawrie

Health Worker & Nursing Student

Lee began her journey with Nganampa Health Council 26 years ago when she first joined as a Dental Assistant. It wasn’t long before she moved into a Health Worker role where she enjoyed 13 years working alongside a team who shared her passion for Indigenous health.

After nine years away from Nganampa Health living and working in Ceduna as an antenatal health worker, Lee made the decision to return in 2013, having seen one of our jobs advertised on Facebook! Since then, she has continued her vital work as a health worker and is continuing to grow through further education.

“There is so much that I’ve gained and learned. I’m now close to finishing my Bachelor of Nursing through Deakin University, which will add to the qualifications in primary health care I already have.”

For Lee, it was the unique combination of the environment, role, team and learning that brought her back to Nganampa Health. The chance to work in a role that allows for diversity on a daily basis is something she loves most about her job - and is what helped her in other roles.  

“My role covers almost everything. That’s what I really enjoy! From adult and child health checks to working in one of the many programs we run. There is a lot to experience here at Nganampa Health.”

“In the antenatal clinic I worked in during my time away from Nganampa Health, the health workers took a lead role and ran programs. The experience and knowledge I’d gained at Nganampa Health definitely prepared me for this. The skills you gain working remotely, you can take anywhere.”

Lee currently works within the Smoking Cessation Program which sees her support local Anangu people in the community to quit smoking and live healthier lives. It’s a program which she strongly believes in and one that brings her so much reward. Lee is always proud to see people achieve goals and to improve their - and their family’s - health and wellbeing.

“Success is many things, but in my role it’s people coming in and quitting smoking. The team provides patients with so much information around good habits and how they impact their family. We also follow up every six weeks with people who have managed to quit to ensure they have continued support. Seeing people become healthy is a good feeling, absolutely. It’s a very rewarding position to be in. I really enjoy achieving positive outcomes with a great team.”

Beyond the dedicated team of health workers, nurses, doctors and specialists with whom she works, Lee loves the environment and the lifestyle on the APY Lands. She’s also the Coach of the Wintjalangu Softball team, who have won the last four Far North West Sports League Grand Finals in a row!

“I find people assume it’s red, flat and dry out here, but it’s not! I love this country and the people. It’s beautiful in this area. You can’t beat the fresh air and no traffic! After moving to Ceduna, I found I was constantly missing the lifestyle I had here and the strong community feel.”

According to Lee, commitment, resilience and motivation to work hard are must-haves for people considering joining the community and team at Nganampa Health. They are non-negotiable traits that are essential in successfully overcoming any challenges faced in the role.

“We do have challenges; any role does.  We want to help the entire community but we can’t always do that - not everyone turns up to their appointments. You try hard to get some people to return to the clinic but you can’t achieve this every time. That’s where resilience and motivation are important.”

With Lee’s nursing studies nearing completion, her future is bright. Looking ahead, she’s excited to continue on her journey with the team and achieve vital change for the community.

“I can see myself staying here for years to come because I love that I get to meet and help people in this role. There are higher rates of illnesses and conditions out here, like diabetes, and being able to help close the gap is very motivating. It feels good to be a part of that change and it’s why I want to stay. It is part of what brought me back here.

I’m looking forward to completing my studies and continuing great work, and seeing more people quit smoking and maintain that new life. I’m excited for what’s to come.”