2013 Friends Unsung Hero - Karen West


Photo: Karen West (centre) - 2013 Friends Unsung Hero pictured with Pauline Glover, Chair, Friends of the Alliance (left) and Ara Creswell, CEO, Carers ACT (right).

2013 Friends Unsung Hero is Karen West, a Kalkadoon Elder born and raised in Mount Isa. Karen is the Senior Aboriginal Health Worker and Team Leader in the remote Queensland community of Mornington Island.

Karen is 64 years old and says she has no plans of retirement. She knows that the job she does is of critical importance to the lives of many people, that she is trusted and therefore has access to the ‘real story’.

Karen was nominated by Ara Creswell, CEO of Carers Australia. Ara had the privilege of observing Karen work on a number of occasions. “Twice I went with her on trips to the town camp where she was greeted by young and old as ‘Aunty Karen’. Wounds were cleaned, vaccinations given, hurts were healed. I watched her work and I marvelled. She is willing to go where others were too afraid, walking over glass to enter homes, calming angry people and soothing children into treatment. I remain amazed by her quiet confidence in the onslaught of heartbreaking health conditions, her competence in dealing with complex injuries, and her preparedness to go the extra mile.”

Karen is an inaugural member of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia which recently delivered accreditation for Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Health Workers. Karen was the first to register in Australia.

She is, without doubt, one of Australia’s unsung heroes, expecting no glory but significantly contributing to the health and wellbeing of so many.