Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Nov-Dec 2013 Contents adjoining community care respite centre
Bran Nue Dae, where her husband
She grew up in Broome, where her
mother is from, and has lived there since
she was six-months old, except for a half-
year stint in Perth which didn't work out
because "the city doesn't suit" her.
Ann is a Yawuru lady. Both of her
parents are Yawuru and her grandmother
on her mum's side is Karajarri. "I grew
up with my grandmother so I spoke more
Karajarri. My grandmother didn't speak to
me in Yawuru much." Ann went to school
at St Mary's, the local Catholic school,
where she says she spoke Pidgin, a mix of
her language and English.
Growing up in Broome was fun, she
says. "When I was a child, my father
used to take me fishing, hunting for
goanna and camping most of the time. It
was good because there was no crime or
drugs in Broome at that time. But that
Ann says when she transferred from
Bran Nue Dae to Germanus Kent it
was "a different ball game" especially
working in the high care wing where
you have to do everything, compared to
the community care role which involved
helping people pay their bills, go to
appointments or possibly showering.
Ann excelled at the role and was "made"
into a house captain with no choice in
the matter, she says.
On this promotion, Lisa says it
happened because Ann is confident, really
knows the residents and manages the
staff well with her diplomacy. "She's just
beautifully level-headed so she is able to
get people to do what needs to be done.
So we just promoted her into that position
because we knew she would be able to
cope. She directs people very well and is a
Despite the "forced promotion" Ann
says she likes being a house captain. "I
can move through the different wings and
if I come along and notice something with
a resident, I can stop right away and just
talk to them and keep an eye on them."
Before moving into aged care, Ann
worked in a hospital kitchen as a domestic
cleaner for 17 years. She got her initial
informal carer training through asking
nurses lots of questions, she says, and
learned from them by watching how they
did things, such as dressings.
She had intended to go to TAFE and
get her EEN qualification in 2007 but a
triple bypass interrupted her plans. It took
a while for her to get back on her feet, but
Ann is healthy now and content to stick
with the carer, house captain and mentor
roles, she says.
Like a lot of people working in aged care,
Ann says one of the biggest challenges
of the job is dealing with the death of
residents who, once they enter the facility,
become like family.
Communication can also be tricky
with so many languages spoken among
the residents and staff, explains Ann.
"There are about 10 different indigenous
languages and then you have the
Indonesian, Filipino and other Asian
influences, plus the regular Aussies."
However, this is not usually a problem
for Ann who has many connections in
Broome and "knows a lot of people from
way back." When she was growing up,
Ann says people used to stay with them
when they came into town so she got
to hear a lot and was always asking her
grandmother for the meaning of what they
As a result, she can get by in the
different local languages and is across
the main words needed to do her job, she
says. Ann is subsequently the language
go-to person for staff and residents.
"If anyone has a problem, they ask me.
Ann is one of eight indigenous staff
working at the facility. But she would like
to see more, especially because they know
the residents' languages. For the benefit
of all, Ann teaches other staff key parts of
language so they can better communicate
and assist residents.
The biggest hurdle however, says Ann,
is getting in relief workers when people
are sick or on holidays. "In Perth, they've
got the luxury of when they're short-
staffed they can get agency staff. But we
can't. The permanent ones here who do
double shifts are really burning out."
Due to her reliability, dependability
and dedication, Ann is usually at the
top of the call list when cover is needed
especially when the evening RN is
unavailable. Lisa, who is often the one
making the calls, says they have to keep
any eye on Ann so they don't wear her
out. "She's always willing to come in. But I
have said to Ann a few times, if you're not
going to look after yourself, who's going
to look after you?"
Ann says she is happy to do the extra
shifts because she "just loves looking after
the old people," then adds with a laugh
that she shouldn't say "old people." She
hopes to stay on in her role "for as long as
my body will let me."
Her colleagues expect she will continue
to come in and volunteer after retirement.
"I can't imagine her not coming in. It's in
her blood," says Lisa. Ann responds with
laughter and an unconvincing: "I won't."
A QUIET ACHIEVER
Lisa says Ann is respected as an employee
because she's good and straight down the
line. "She'll tell you what's expected. She's
always been very patient, very reasonable
and she's so trusted. And because she
can speak the languages as well, she's
culturally appropriate. She knows these
people. She knows their families. She
knows their histories.
"Ann asks you a lot of questions that
allow you to sit back and reflect on who
you are and what you want, rather than
what other people tell you."
While Ann would rather not talk about
herself, she has plenty of others happy to
talk about her service to Broome's elderly.
Ann's colleagues recently nominated her
for a Rotary award for excellence, which
she went on to win.
However, Ann was not aware of the
nomination and was tricked into attending
the award's dinner for fear she wouldn't
turn up willingly. "They dobbed me in,"
Ann explains. "I was angry I wasn't told.
They're sneaky. They rang my husband,
they didn't ring me, then he says I had to
go to a dinner and they took me."
Ann concedes she wouldn't have
turned up to the event if she had known
what it was really for. "I don't like to be
in the spotlight too much. I like to do my
job." Even so, she says she is proud of
winning the award but adds a better prize
is when the residents give her a hug of
"I am here for the residents," Ann says.
"At the end of the day when I go home,
if I know that I have done the best of my
ability and that residents are happy then
I'm happy." n
"She'll tell you what's expected.
She's always been very patient, very
reasonable and she's so trusted.
And because she can speak the
languages as well, she's culturally
appropriate. She knows these
people. She knows their families.
She knows their histories."
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