Marie Treloar (Midwife & Humanitarian) and The Highlands Foundation
This is a story of Marie’s life journey to which Robinvale plays a small part. Marie has undertaken several stints over the past few years in our Midwifery department, looking after the clients for Vicki Broad.
A friendship between Vicki and Marie got them talking about Marie’s Papua New Guinea (PNG) experience and the lack of resources in the remote Highlands. From this we have been led by Vicki to “save” out of date items (that are still usable) for transporting to PNG. Every effort is taken to rotate stock to avoid too much waste but inevitably there is always something that our high health standards in Australia deem to be not usable. The stock is collected and stored for Marie who then ships it to a large container for the trip to PNG. RDHS is proud to contribute to the Highlands Foundation and their worthy venture.
Read on for Marie’s life journey.
I was born in India and migrated to Australia at the age of 10. My family settled in Mildura where I finished my primary school education. We later moved to Bendigo where I had the good fortune of completing my high school and Nursing and Midwifery Education at La Trobe University. With over 13 years of nursing and midwifery experience in Australia, a desire to experience life as a volunteer nurse/midwife in a third world setting was about to become a reality. My first trip to Goroka in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea was in May 2003 with Dr Hoffman, his wife Wendy and two of my friends Nicole (midwifery student, nurse) and Nadia (nurse). After hearing of Dr Hoffman’s voluntary trips as an O&G consultant to a nation that had devastatingly high maternal and infant mortality rates, it became apparent that there was also a shortage of nurses and midwives in the existing health care facilities.
We paid our own way and took time off work to embark on a working holiday that was to impact on my career as a nurse/midwife and a humanitarian. By working alongside PNG nurses and midwives in labour ward, special care nursery and general wards, it was challenging and confronting to practice with such limited resources on hand. As an Australian midwife and nurse, I became ever so grateful for the abundant resources available to us in Australia in delivering effective health care.
However, as I saw women birthing in PNG with barely a sheet or anything to wrap their babies in, I was moved to make a commitment to take the plight of these women back to Australia. After witnessing women at the brink of death in childbirth and some neonatal deaths which could have been prevented if resources were at hand, the obvious step was to get together with like minded people and help to make a difference in the remote highlands of Papua New Guinea.
The Highlands Foundation was birthed in 2004 and I was amazed as I started sharing stories of the conditions in PNG, how many generous Australians wanted to assist in this humanitarian venture. The needs were simple: Expertise, Resources and Education for PNG health workers on evidenced based practice. The Highlands experience has given me a passion for Public Health Development and hence I was able to complete a Master’s in Public Health at Melbourne University at the end of 2006. I have consequently visited PNG for the past 14 years for 3-4 week placements and with an amazing team of Volunteers have had the rewarding experience of following through the delivery and distribution of several 20 ft. containers filled with generously donated medical and hospital supplies which our volunteers in Australia have tirelessly gathered and hand packed from Melbourne and Sydney.
Since 2003 we have also had a steady flow of Australian doctors, nurses, midwives, medical students, nursing and midwifery students who have volunteered their time and resources to assist in health care of the highlands. Teams of volunteers each year have visited the highlands and assisted in health care, making a total of over 300 volunteers in the last 14 years. Added to this we have coordinated and supported sponsorship of groups of PNG nurses and midwives to attend Australian and international based conferences and work related experiences in developed countries to empower and motivate local health workers to improve their services. PNG now feels like my second home.
I feel very comfortable during my times there, and I take joy in taking new volunteers with me so that they too can experience the beauty and warmth of the country, people and culture that wins your heart over. PNG staff and patients are so grateful for our involvement and are so welcoming of the assistance we provide that volunteer work in the Highlands is truly rewarding personally and professionally for all our volunteers. PNG health services are reporting better working conditions, reduced mortality and morbidity rates since the assistance given by the Highlands Foundation. Setting up and continuing the work of The Highlands foundation is my way of giving back and paying it forward for the opportunities given to me.