Industry Ambassador – Bernard Pope
Bernard is a 44-year old Indigenous nurse who only started his training in 2005 at the age of 38. A series of life-changing events - the loss of his brother, giving up alcohol and a chance meeting with his future wife - transported him from a life as a fruit-picker in Mundubbera, to Maryborough, where his wife lived. Training played an important role in this transformation.
"There were no orchards in Maryborough," he says, "but I came across an ad for an aged care worker and decided to apply." He completed his Certificate III in Aged Care in 2005 and found a lot of satisfaction learning on the job. "One of the best things about this work is that you help residents enjoy the last few years on this earth. There's a great rapport between these residents and their families and you hear so many fantastic life stories."
Aged care is a growth industry with significant skills shortages. Bernard claims that "as an aged care nurse you can pretty much guarantee you'll never be out of a job, wherever you live, because the population everywhere is ageing, Also, they'll be needing more community nurses, because nowadays people want to stay at home in later life."
It takes a special person to take on such a role. "You've got to be approachable and adapt to different situations every day," he says. "Our people are always taught to respect the elderly, so that helps." Bernard obviously had the talent required, because his skills were swiftly recognised within the training community. He won the North Queensland Vocational Student of the Year, 2008, and from there won the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander Student of the Year, 2008. In 2009 he was invited to judge the Australian Training Awards.
"It's amazing to get the recognition," he claims. "It puts me up there as a role model for Indigenous people, which makes me really proud. I also want to be a role model for mature age workers like myself who are terrified because they haven't picked up a textbook for years. I'm old, but I gave it a go and look at me! I moved to Maryborough only seven years ago and now everybody in the community knows and respects me."