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School of Medical Sciences; Nursing and Midwifery and Psychology and Social Science - Occasional Speaker

Saturday, 21 January at 6.00pm

Associate Professor Catherine Stoddart

Good Evening, I would like to commence by acknowledging the elders both past and present of the Nyoongar nation, who are the traditional custodians of the land we meet on today.

Good Evening Chancellor, The Honourable Dr Hendy Cowan; Vice Chancellor, Professor Kerry Cox; distinguished guests; academics; graduates; family and friends.

I am honoured to be speaking tonight, a night which represents the culmination of a great deal of effort as perhaps an entrant to a profession that I hope you are passionate about, or building on your expertise and knowledge.

When given the opportunity to speak at an event such as this I find myself reflecting as a graduate of ECU, originally with a Bachelor of Nursing, this has been a wonderful qualification and foundation for my career. I don’t think I had any clear idea where I would focus my interests beyond hoping to be competent in and to be honest like most of you I was thrilled to finally get to the end of study at least for a little while.

Recognition of family and time at ECU

Today would not be possible for many of you without our supporters. So on behalf of the graduates today I would like to acknowledge and thank the parents, family, friends who made coffees late at night, maybe drove their graduates to lecture, perhaps edited papers or listened when the going got tough. Many will be both proud and relieved, that the graduates today have made it.

Like me I am sure you carry some wonderful memories of your time at ECU, perhaps some difficult ones, maybe even a few hilarious moments shared with the people graduating along side you. As a member now of the ECU alumni, you will always be in some way linked through your career. It may be on a daily basis or just as Facebook friend.

The trick now is to build on that competence you have developed so that you have confidence in whatever arena you are stepping into. The range of graduates today is immense and some of you may be in a graduate program, or changing roles based on your new found expertise. It will take a little time to gain that confidence, give yourself a break if you don’t always get it right. Pick a good mentor who will guide and challenge you so that you build up that confidence.

Finding your passion

There appears to me that there is nothing more important as you embark or build on your career that finding “ your passion”, whatever that is, even if your degree or post graduate qualification is a stepping stone to find it rather that the end point. It would be wonderful if you walk away from University with a clear direction and passion but that will not be the path for all of you.

It’s hard to recall any person successful in their career who wasn’t passionate about what they are doing. Because as Maxim Gorky said: 

When work is a pleasure, life is a joy, when work is duty, life is slavery.”

I hope that your new Career is your passion and that as the years unfold you can explore this in you work.

Currently we are part of a unique opportunity as a group of professionals in Western Australia. The economic climate in Western Australia creates the opportunity for you to explore and develop your areas of passion, to test what it is that inspires you, because your skills are so transferable in all professions graduating today.We use the slogan Nursing and Midwifery can take you anywhere, but this is true of all university educated West Aussies. That taking you anywhere could be geographical, towards a specialised area, moving between professions, the opportunities abound.

So although its early days in your career for many of you I would encourage you to find or consolidate your passion and pursue it. I have just returned yesterday Fitzroy Crossing where I did us this both nursing and working with indigenous and developing communities over the last few weeks. I have much empathy for our graduates in there first few weeks as I don’t think I have been so nervous in a long time when given the basic instruction of how to drive the ambulance and how to look after a sick baby with a fever.

What it did do was reconnect my passion, reassure me that we can make a difference, reinforcing the importance of those nurses, police, teaching professionals working in remote and rural areas in challenging conditions who really are exceptional.

Challenging yourself

Challenging your self in your career seems like such a simple concept and I am sure at the beginning of your career you are feeling challenged every day to the point of distraction.  Very soon however you will develop the confidence and competence for the role your in and the daily anxiety will settle, and you may seek new challenges to build your career

My foray into Fitzroy reminded me of that and was one of the more challenging decisions in recent times I have taken. Personally it was perhaps to see to see if I could still do it, to try and understand the circumstances of an environment such as that so that I could perhaps do my role a little better. So for you a little bit down the track when your ready to do so in whatever profession you are in, there is great value in challenging yourself with;

  • additional education to build on your career- perhaps it will be in lateral direction to build on your emerging passion.
  • agreeing to take on a role in your organisation that really pushes you out of your comfort zone but builds your skills
  • stepping across organisations to gain diverse and valuable experience.

Identifying role models, mentors

One of the keys to success is being able to identify the role models you wish to emulate, those that inspire you because of their skill or their personal traits, and area an inspiration. In your environment they will be those who create loyalty and often they are those people who ask of their team that which they are prepared to do themselves. They are visible and available to staff who need support and mentoring.

I am sure you recognise people like that in your own lives and careers. The moment you graduate with a title whether it is nurse, paramedic, occupational therapist or any other profession, the community and colleagues view you as a role model. Someone they may wish to emulate, this is a compliment and a burden so its worth reflecting on how you would like to be known, your personal style as a role model.

Contribution to community

Lastly I have come to realise in the last few years how important for those in service professions that feel the need to contribute to our community. Many of your will be in roles where you have the capacity to contribute in a direct way with consumers, patients, the community.

That connection is fundamentally important at an individual level for many of us. It could be being part of a rotary, playing footy as part of a club, or running a play group.This came home to me having establishing a program called the Community Service Initiative “which creates the opportunity health professionals in the public system to undertake a short volunteer program in remote Australia or a developing country.

There has been overwhelming interest from professionals keen to be to be part of something bigger in the community and have a desire to connect their expertise in areas of greatest need. There is a global rise in this type of community - corporate volunteerism, which is now recognised as a mechanism to attract and retaining young professionals such as yourselves, to develop teamwork and leadership skills.

ECU has been striving to do this in many of their programs that support local community, remote, rural and international placements for all groups of students.  

I have been fortunate to travel for a short time with some of the ECU nursing students graduating to day when they were exceptional role models in Tanzania. This commitment of ECU to provide such experiences is ensuring all of you are exceptional professionals graduating today.

Of course we all contribute in different ways and as British Novelist GB. Shean said “both the opportunist and pessimists contribute to society. The optimist builds the plane and the pessimist builds the parachute”

Finally I would like to extend my congratulations and best wishes to all the graduates today. I wish you every success as you build on your academic achievement in a career that you are passionate about, challenges you and allows you to contribute in a way that brings you joy in the future.

Thank you

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