• Three Aboriginal nurses speak with Her Royal Highness Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge and the Countess of Wessex Sophie. (Kensington Palace social media)Source: Kensington Palace social media
An online Skype call with the monarchy has received more than a million views, with three Queensland nurses using the global platform to elevate Aboriginal health work.
Shahni Wellington

16 May 2020 - 8:46 AM  UPDATED 16 May 2020 - 8:46 AM

For many people across the country, a scheduled online meeting might garner an eye-roll and a swift tap of the mute button.

But on Tuesday in North-West Queensland, three Indigenous nurses answered the call of the monarchy.

A video call, that is.

To mark International Nurses' Day, members of the royal family spoke with frontline nurses from seven countries to hear their experiences dealing with COVID-19, as part of the 'Nursing Now' campaign.

Renee Blackburn, the CEO of Aboriginal healthcare provider, Gidgee Healing, joined fellow Indigenous nurses Leeona West and Tahnia Ah Kit, to chat online with Her Royal Highness Catherine, (Kate) Duchess of Cambridge and the Countess of Wessex, Sophie.

It began with a traditional Acknowledgement of Country.

With an online connection bridging the distance from Kensington Palace, a Mount Isa board room became the perfect place to share the plight of Aboriginal health workers with the royals and the world.

"We've got some very vulnerable communities if something like the global pandemic gets in there, but I also want to showcase the hard work of everyone in our health service workforce," said Ms Blackburn.

"We talked about the relationship between the Aboriginal community-controlled health organisation and our hospitals across the area that we cover. We talked about COVID-19, mental health, we talked Aboriginal Health.

"You know, we talked about us being Aboriginal nurses but also nurses too, working in rural and remote spaces... So it was only 10 minutes in, but it was a great conversation," said Ms Blackburn.

COVID criticism

Mount Isa and the north-west currently have no cases of COVID-19, with the large area being home to many Indigenous populations.

Based in the Gulf Country region of Queensland, Gidgee Healing delivers culturally appropriate health services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across more than 640,000 square kilometres, with centres in Mount Isa, Normanton, Doomadgee and Mornington Island.

Leeona West, who caters to the area as a registered nurse with North West Hospital and Health Service, said their conversation with the royal family had received some criticism online.

"We've been very happy, very proud. And then you hear this stuff, and you just think, 'oh my goodness...' but you know what, we've been nurses for 20 years, and this stuff ain't new,"

"It was an honour for us as Aboriginal people, for representing our people and most importantly for us representing all the nurses of Australia as well, nurses and midwives," said Ms West.

Ms Blackburn echoed those sentiments.

"A lot has happened since we did the interview, including some negative stuff from people across the country about us - not really understanding what's going on because we're COVID-free, which is an absolutely absurd thing to say," she said.

"It obviously shows the ignorance,"

"We're COVID-free out here, and it's not an accident - that's because we're taking precautions, restricting access, implementing plans and working hard with governments and police," said Ms Blackburn.

'Nursing Now' is a global campaign raising awareness for the work of frontline nurses.

Our Indigenous representatives said it was by chance they were called up for a royal yarn, having been part of the movement.

While the royal video chat has now ended and collected more than a million views, the Aboriginal health care workers have returned to their work on the ground to continue their services. 

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