Posted by Rae Heston
Kristy Stewart and Daughter Jasmin
KRISTY Stewart — recipient of a 2019 Australian Rotary Indigenous Health Scholarship — told her gripping life story  at a special meeting organised by the Baldivis Rotary Club.   The Palm Beach, Baldivis, Kwinana, and Rockingham Rotary clubs have sponsored her $5000 scholarship, — awarded last year — which is paying for her text books.
KRISTY Stewart’s was living on Jaru country in the Kimberley when she had her first child, daughter Jasmin, at 15 years of age.
Her son Jason arrived when she was 18.
It might have been the start of a very big family but something  impelled her to take another path.
 “I have a large family up there,” she said. “My Nanna had 11 kids.”
Her mother was taken from her family and grew up in the Beagle Bay mission, where she met Kristy’s father.  They settled in Broome.
Kristy might have continued having children in the Kimberley but “realised what I was missing educationally and socially,” she said.
 “I completed a bridging course to further my education and wanted to do nursing.”
However she failed her human biology subject so became a primary school teacher instead.
She had an enjoyable 15 years in the WA Education Department — loving the warmth and caring in her classrooms — but her  ambition to be  nurse never waned.
Finally, with her daughter and son in high school, Kristy decided to try again to get into her dream job. This ambition was fired by “working with an amazing bunch of passionate, dedicated and highly professional nurses” with whom she started working as Aboriginal Care Coordinator  at the Derby Renal Health Centre.   
“I have also thoroughly enjoyed a recent work placement with the palliative care team at Broome and Royal Perth Hospital,” she said.
She applied and was  admitted to Geelong-based Deakin University’s Bachelor of Nursing . “They have a very supportive mode of study run through their Institute of Koorie Education,” she said.   
She spent a lot of last year traveling between Derby and Geelong.  And she was travelling for work too. “Often I was not home for a month,” she said.  And it was not easy getting in and out of Derby during the cyclone season.
In December she decided to quit her job and move to Perth. There she enrolled for full-time study in the Murdoch University nursing course and is the oldest student in the college accommodation.  She is living with young people but reckons “I am just  a big kid myself”.
“I am so very grateful for the financial support I receive from Australian Rotary Health,” she said.   “Without the rotary scholarship, life would be very tough.   University text books  are a ridiculous price.
“Thank you so very much for your continued support. After resigning from my job in Derby and continuing to study at a different university in Perth, this financial support has been a necessity to me thus far.”
The lack of income has not been Kristy’s only challenge since quoting work and tackling full-time study.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer in March, but said she is “getting through”.
Her ilnesss meant she could not look for part-time work as well as cnntinuing study  and treatment.  But she was “managing to have the important things covered — I have all I need”.
And her eyebrows were starting to grow back!
When she graduates, Kristy would like to return too the Kimberley and  wants to improve indigenous health as a qualified medical practitioner or health worker.
“I have no desire to move to a city location — I find these rural settings to be the most rewarding.”
She has only recently become aware of the many health issues Aboriginal people face on a day to day basis, “especially the multiple health problems that are directly related to (an often mismanaged) chronic kidney disease”, she wrote in a recent “thank you” to Australian Rotary Health.
When she qualifies as a registered nurse, she wants to be either be in a nurse educator  or a remote nurse or midwife .
Being a nurse educator is appealing because “I have found that there is a huge gap in educating individuals about the effects and consequences of poor lifestyle choices, early intervention and genetic factors which effect their long-term health care,” she wrote.  
“I have also though about becoming a remote nurse or midwife.   
“Either way, I plan on staying in the Kimberley area – directly being able to help my people.  I am sure that the experiences I have whilst on work placement will direct my focus to one of these areas.
“I believe that one person helping another is a powerful mode of enriching someone’s life and I honestly believe it’s even more powerful when they share the same cultural background …(I)  want to continue to empower my people to take control of their own health and well-being once qualified.”
Kristy wrote: “Studying has been a welcome distraction from all of my medical issues and I’m so grateful for all of the support I have received from Murdoch University this year; especially from the Kulbardi staff members. 
“They have been able to organise tutors and speak to unit coordinators on my behalf when I have not been able to. 
“Most importantly, they have encouraged me to continue despite my diagnosis and to succeed.
“Academically, this has been a great move as I have had more time to study, reflect and embed the knowledge that I have been learning. The staff, facilities and resources at Murdoch are wonderful and I’m very much looking forward to continuing and finishing my degree there.”