QAS South West Indigenous Cadets Kristy Anderson, Tamara Suhan, Charlene Cavanough and Dwayne Kangan with Superintendent Loretta Johnson (middle).
QAS South West Indigenous Cadets Kristy Anderson, Tamara Suhan, Charlene Cavanough and Dwayne Kangan with Superintendent Loretta Johnson (middle).

‘Giving back to my mob’: new crop of cadets head home

AT JUST 24-years-old, Cunnamulla’s Charlene Cavanough feels privileged to don her Queensland Ambulance Services uniform for the next six years as she works alongside her community.

Ms Cavanough is one of four new indigenous cadets in the southwest region of the ambulance service, and a passion for healthcare and for her community is what’s driven her to be a part of the inaugural Cunnamulla program.

“I’m going to take a lot back to my community being so young, and being able to engage with the young and old alike,” she said.

“It’s incredible to think that at the age of 24 I get to be a role model to kids. I want to take my experiences to the young people in the community, and also be able to help people when they need it.”

After five years working for Queensland Health in the Cunnamulla Hospital, Ms Cavanough has seen a lot, but knows no two days will be the same in the program.

“Six years is a long time, but at the end of one year you’ve achieved something, and that adds up every year,” she said.

Joining her in Cunnamulla is Kristy Anderson, where family loss and illness left her wanting to give back.

“My mum died from a severe stroke four years ago, and just last year my dad suffered from a silent heart attack and he’s had another one since that,” she said.

“Being in a small community, I know a lot of people who have been quite sick, so this is about giving back to my mob and trying to help them.

“Giving back is so important, and we get to be a voice for the community and be a promoter of indigenous health.

“I hope this shows people at home that if you put your mind to it, do you can do it. I want to be there to help people when they need it.”

QAS South West Executive Manager Loretta Johnson said it was an important milestone for two communities to reap the benefits of the four indigenous cadets.

“We’ve had two cadets in Charleville previously, but this is the first time we’ve been able to offer the program in Cunnamulla as well,” she said.

“This program is really about going into the communities and creating a link between the ambulance service and the indigenous communities.

“We try to employ locally out of the community.”

While Ms Johnson said the program can take up to six years, a lot of work is done to educate the cadets, taking them through an in-depth program taught by the South West’s clinical manager and clinical support team.

“A lot of the work they do is hands on in the community and working with our education team in the southwest, but it will involved going away to Brisbane for residential school and some exams,” Ms Johnson said.

“These cadets will represent the ambulance service within their indigenous communities, and can act as a link between.

“They’ll also provide assistance on cases, but will also be a representative in our uniform.”

In Charleville, cousins Tamara Suhan and Dwayne Kangan are both excited about giving back to their home town.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, to give back to my community and to care for the people,” Ms Suhan said.

“I’ve worked in indigenous health for the past six and a half years, and I think there’s a lot I can offer.”

Mr Kangan is a level two sports instructor, and is well known for his love of helping people.

“Through a want for knowledge I joined QAS as an emergency driver five years ago, and it’s just kept going,” he said.

“I have sick parents and I’ve learned that it is necessary to care and educate our people. The more they know, the better.”


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