Kaete Walker

Kaete Walker

* About Kaete

In 1951 my parents arrived in Australia as UK emigrants. My father then a coal mining surveyor, and my mother, formerly a nurse and dress maker. I was born, four months following their arrival.

‘A ship largely built in the UK, but launched in Australia’, one might say.

There was significant personal stress, and personal loss, to my parents, with the relocation from the UK to Australia. Promised housing, when they arrived there was none, and they, thus, for a time, resided in a local hotel. They lost previous close familial contacts, and experienced discrimination, as a result of being newcomers. In order to ‘fit in’, my father, as I understand it, even went to the length of having speech retraining, in order to rid himself of quite a heavy Lancashire accent.

My mother, three years younger sister, and I, returned back to the UK for twelve months, when I was four years of age. I’m told that when I arrived back in Australia, I had even such stronger Lancashire, England, accent than when I left; so much so, that there was trouble by locals in being understood. Luckily after a few years in and out of primary schools, it had largely worn off, and all was reasonably well.

My immediate close family now consists of: a) my 35 year old daughter, currently a policy officer with the Australian Human Rights Commission; b) my mother, 96 years of age; c) my retired primary school teacher sister, three years younger than I, and d) many nieces, and a nephew, all of whom, I feel immensely proud. Family and friends are strong interests, and very strong sources of enjoyment. My mother, exceptionally resilient, and still having that well known humor of hers, in her lifetime has lost to death: three of her sons, her husband, all her siblings bar one, and her lifetime closest friends. Having been born in the UK’s Great Depression years, then having survived the bombing of Lancashire, England, during WW11, not to mention a myriad of other ordeals in her lifetime, she is certainly the person I most look up to.

Of interests, ongoing, major interests I have, being bicycle riding, maintaining various email lists of one sort or another, listening to music, particularly classical music, doing meditation, poetry, having an interest in the meanings, origins and usage of words, and an interest in sociology/social theory. Being now legally female, but, in the distant past, previously legally male, I also have some continuing interest in gender, particularly, transgender, research, and theory.

In addition to the professional experience, given below, I’ve also had the experience of being a survivor of the suicides of two my own close relatives (my brother in 1996, and my father in 1999), and, before that, two friends, and three former colleagues. This personal experience gives me somewhat a reasonably unique perspective, I expect. The suicides took much time, and pain, to recover from and, I suggest, that if one can possibly avoid the experience of suicide, yours and/or your relatives/friends, I very highly recommend that you do so.

May, 2022, marked the 72nd anniversary of my birth. Additionally, the year marked the 51st anniversary of my commencement as a first year, trainee psychiatric/mental health nurse. The training, both at James Fletcher Hospital, Newcastle, and at Bloomfield Hospital, Orange, lasted a little over three years. Many changes there have been over the last forty years or so in mental health services in NSW, Australia, and most, at least it seems to me, have been largely been for the better. The inclusion of consumer and carer involvement in decision making, so particularly.

My past work career, has been, variously included: a) in the very beginning, for three years a trainee clerk, firstly with a local city council, and later with a local university; b) a trainee psychiatric nurse, and later, a community psychiatric/mental health nurse (several times over, in various localities); c) a hospital based psychiatric nurse in the UK; d) a trainee general nurse in NSW; e) a generalist nurse, working in emergency and acute care; f) a welfare officer, pursuant the 1958 NSW Mental Health Act; g) a co-ordinator of a small rural mental health service located in the NSW South West health region; h) a university tutor and clinical supervisor, University of Newcastle; i) a mental health clinical nurse consultant; j) a project officer (with the organisation ARAFMI) developing and overseeing a hospital based support programme (the ‘Family to Family’ project) for relatives of persons having mental illness; k) a co-coordinator, with a non govt rehabilitation service, Kaiyu Enterprises, for persons having mental illness disability; l) a part time national secretary, and executive member,  the former Bicycle Federation of Australia;  m) a transgender project worker, with the Women and Girls Emergency Centre (WAGEC) in inner Sydney, NSW; and, n) for several years, a TAFE part time teacher (eg, in the course, Cert IV Mental Health Non Clinical.)

Over the last several most recent years I’ve worked for a regional NSW area health service as a community based nurse clinician, providing, variously, counseling, psychotherapy, case management, and telehealth assessments. Mid 2012, I was promoted to the position ‘Clinical Nurse Specialist’ (the promotion, largely as a result of I being deemed a specialist resource person, among other things, matters pertaining transgender).

Away from my paid work, in my spare time I was, for two years, a former past executive member of the Australian and New Zealand Professional Association of Transgender Health (ANZPATH), also seconded to its education sub-committee), and the former inaugural chairperson/president of the Hunter Centre for Sex and Gender Diversity (HCSGD). The latter group, 2015 formed, attempting to seek improved services for transgender and gender diverse persons residing in the Hunter region of NSW, Australia.

Formal undergraduate and post graduate studies, past, have been in the fields of nursing, social welfare, education and training, social policy, and theology. What has been of very most beneficially taught me, I believe, in all of the above, however, has been that of the importance of critical thinking: the importance of questioning that which is perceived the immediately obvious; and too, the importance of examining the influence of hegemonic social, and political, ideologies in shaping, and perhaps, oft times limiting, worldview practice.

Many studies, undergraduate and post graduate, over the years, I’ve undertaken.

In the words of the poet, TS Eliot, “Old men ought to be explorers…”.

Similarly so, I think, for us old (trans) women.

T.S. Eliot’s poem, ‘EAST COKER’

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.
There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.
Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning..

Written by Kaete

July 14, 2010 at 19:26

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