District opens updated Lounge for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients
Sydney Local Health District has today officially opened a revamped Sister Alison Bush Lounge, named in honour of the trailblazer who dedicated more than 40 years to caring for Aboriginal mothers and their babies at RPA.
During her career, Sister Bush, as she was affectionately known, delivered more than 1000 babies from across New South Wales becoming one of the state’s longest serving and most influential midwives.
“Sister Bush was a ‘giant of midwifery’. She was determined to improve the health outcomes for Aboriginal people – particularly mothers and babies,” George Long, the District’s Director of Aboriginal Health, said.
When she began work at RPA in 1969, at the King George V Memorial Hospital for Mothers and Babies, Sister Bush became the first Aboriginal midwife at a major maternity hospital in the state.
In her role as an Aboriginal Liaison Midwife, Sister Bush worked as a ‘cultural broker’, helping to ensure Aboriginal women and babies were cared for in a culturally respectful, safe and secure way.
She was also a passionate educator, making a vital contribution to policy and services at a national, state and local level – including the development of a program to provide Aboriginal health care workers across Australia with skills in antenatal care.
“Her dedication to education was paramount, as was her desire for all Aboriginal people to be treated with respect,” Dr Sue Jacobs, a former colleague and friend of Sister Bush, said.
“She was an inspiring teacher who shared her knowledge and enthusiasm for midwifery with so many Aboriginal health care workers from rural and remote areas of Australia,” Dr Jacobs said.
In 2005, in recognition of her commitment to advocating for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, the Sister Alison Bush Lounge was opened at RPA.
The Lounge provides a welcoming and comfortable space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and their families – especially those who’ve travelled from regional New South Wales to RPA for medical treatment.
As a result of a makeover, the Lounge now has new flooring, fresh paint, a new kitchen and furnishings. A history timeline depicts Sister Bush’s life and career at RPA, while Aboriginal artwork adorns the outside walls of the Lounge.
The revamped Lounge has been opened in NAIDOC Week which celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Two Aboriginal Liaison Officers, Lavina Lyons and Nathan Sherriff, are based at the Lounge and provide support for patients and their families when in hospital.
They visit patients to help them understand the health care system and hospital procedures, provide cultural and social support, offer advice about other services in the community and talk to doctors and nurses at the patient’s request.
“Sister Bush was always here for the Mob. She was much-loved, respected and valued. In some small way, we’re working to carry on her legacy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and their families today,” Ms Lyons said.
Known as a quiet achiever, Sister Bush became the first midwife and nurse to be made an honorary fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists.
She was named an Officer of the Order of Australia, received the Centenary of Federation Medal and was also inducted into the Aboriginal Health Awards’ Hall of Fame.
Sister Bush was born in the Northern Territory and grew up in Darwin, before moving to Sydney.
She began her career at Marrickville District Hospital in 1960, becoming a midwife in 1966 while at Canterbury District Memorial Hospital.
Sister Bush was 69 when she died from pancreatic cancer at RPA, her “second home” in 2010.
“She was an inspiration to many of us and a role model for all involved in health care. Her influence remains across our District,” Dr Teresa Anderson AM, the District’s chief executive, said.
“It’s one of the drivers behind my aspiration for our District to have the healthiest Aboriginal population in the nation,” she said.