Back to School with Anne Carey


Hello, I’m Anne Carey and I’m going Back to
School with Student Edge. Tell us, what were you like as a teenager? I was very shy. Really, okay? We moved to Australia as a family of seven kids, from Ireland with my parents when I was 10. So, from 10 to 14 I went to six different
schools. And then I left school at 14. Was the shyness because you were one member
of a large family? What was the reason that you kind-of stayed
in your shell? I think because we moved as migrants. You know, for the first two weeks, when we
came to the border of Melbourne and Sydney, they put us in a non-speaking immigrant hostel. Because they didn’t think we spoke English. And we stayed there for two weeks until they
realised that we did and we moved into Melbourne itself. And I think it was just the combination of
being a migrant and shy and I had a heavy Irish accent at the time. Were Australians welcoming to you and your family in those
early years, or did it take a while? I think it took some time because the IRA
were still going? And we were Irish and we were Catholic, and
being the combination of Irish and Catholic wasn’t so accepted. I think for my parents it was a little bit
hard. So, you left school at 14. Okay… Which isn’t advisable, to those listening. When did you know that you wanted to get into
nursing? When did that potential career path sort-of
emerge? I think when I was 24. I was looking after people who were dying
and it was young people, and they had cancer and that. I was quite interested in that work. Or, I… enjoy is not the right word, but
I liked nursing people. So, I went to uni. Oh, I did a year of Enrol Nursing, which I
loved at St. Vincent’s, and then I changed over to uni and went to university. And then I went to do Midwifery in Brisbane. And then later, after some work in Africa,
I did a Masters in Public Health and Tropical Medicine. When you started working in nursing, I understand
you faced some workplace bullying at that time. No, not at the beginning No. It’s only been… I had a lovely nursing career, but it was
only just in 2014. Really? See that’s so interesting, because I think
a lot of people think, wrongly, that bullying ends in the schoolyard. For me, who had heard about it, but not come
across it before, I thought there’d be integrity within the system, being the health system,
and I was targeted quite badly by managers. But Ebola came up at the time, so I went off
to do that. Even though, what I had gone from, which was
very stressful, I found workplace bullying, I found Ebola easier to manage. And less stressful for me, leaving what I
did, to work with people who needed help. What was it that made you go, ‘No, I’m gonna
fly out and work with Ebola victims’? It was just to be part of the solution, I
think, rather than not doing anything. Rather than being a spectator. So Red Cross rang, because they were finding
it hard to get people to go, obviously. Because it was scary. There was a lot of fear in Australia. So, they rang and I said ‘yes’ to the phone
call, and then I needed to go and see Donald in the Blue Mountains–that’s my partner–whose
mother was dying at that stage. So, I didn’t really consult with him or communicate
in any way. So, you agreed on that first phone call? Yes. There was lots of fear. Well, I didn’t think I was going to get back. And Donald was of the same mind. I didn’t think I’d get back from Sierra Leone. But you were still willing to make that decision? Yeah, because I think the important thing
for me, anyway, wasn’t that I wasn’t getting back, it was to go and help people who were suffering,
because there were so many, wasn’t there? They were suffering badly. To not do anything as part of a global world
just seemed to be really… I just can’t understand that. So, it was easier to go and do something,
even though you may not get back. What were some of the things that you faced
over there? Were you ready for what you eventually saw? I don’t think anybody’s ready for that amount
of death, because it was over 80 per cent, in the initial phase of that. So, my first hour in the treatment center
on the 24th of October–on the 26th of October, in 2014, as I entered in a little child
who was only a couple weeks old fitted, and then he bled to death in my arms. And then his mother, who was sitting there,
had seven children, who all died in this treatment center along with her husband. But she survived. So that really… that was my first hour. So that changed everything for me, because
that death rate continued really badly for thousands of people. Because I likened Ebola to a bully, because
bullies go in and do things to people who don’t deserve it, like Ebola. And then lots of other countries were scared,
so they didn’t come in the initial phase of that, and it’s a bit like a bully, isn’t it? Lots of people around the victim kind of walk
away, because they don’t want to get in trouble or they don’t want to be attacked next. So I think there was lots of hope in trying
to beat this bully in that Ebola. Our world is afraid of lots of things. Like, afraid of refugees. You ask people, have they met a refugee ever,
and it’s ‘no’. I just think you need to start with a stranger
and say hello and they’re no longer a stranger. We need that courage in our world.