Kaete Walker

Kaete Walker

* Kaete- some history

In this section I eventually hope to give some brief hx time line biographical information starting from the time of my birth to now. It’s very much a slow work in progress.

In early 1951 my parents arrived in Australia from the UK. I was born in Australia a couple of months later, a ship manufactured mostly in the UK, though launched in Australia, one might say.

My early childhood was marked with severe respiratory illness, in a time when there was little in the way of treatment, as there exists now. Ultimately, it was decided, that the only option, if I were not to die, was to send me to live away from the coast, where I was then, to outback NSW where the climate was drier. In 1963, I was sent to live in an Anglican run hostel in Dubbo, and after this hostel subsequently closed, with a couple of other families in the Dubbo area, then for short time, before going to boarding school in Bathurst, with, for a weeks only, and whilst going to Cessnock High School, an elderly couple in Cessnock. Don’t remember all that much of the couple, except that the man was heavily into, as a hobby, short wave radio, and which I’d subsequently also become interested.

I’d been several schools in my childhood and adolescence, with the last being Toronto High School were I obtained my Year 4 certificate, subsequently then, later, deciding to run away from home….

No that the running away from home lasted long. Within two months of being a vagabond of sorts, hitchhiking west NSW, getting some casual laboring income there on cotton producing farm, thence going north to Brisbane, I was persuaded by concerned parents to return. Subsequently I procured employment with Newcastle City Council as a trainee clerical worker, later with the University of Newcastle doing similar, whilst also at the same time going back, for two years to part time night school, in order to do my Higher School Certificate (HSC). How on earth I managed a full time day job, doing HSC studies in the evening at a different location, then traveling down to Sydney, occasional weekends, to visit a girlfriend there, I’m not at all certain. Though I did, with reasonably good HSC results (albeit, not in the subject, English which, try as hard as I could, English grammar, in particular, I failed. Maybe it was as resultant that, in my sickly childhood, I was often not at school, but rather being looked after by a so lovely mother, herself of Welsh origin, who knows. I somehow doubt it.)

It was whilst working as a trainee clerk I re-met, traveling by train, an earlier childhood sweetheart. She, three years older than I, had originally met, with our parents playing tennis together. After a short courtship, we then married. The marriage ceremony was held at a civil registry in Newcastle, and we were both under, as ashamed I am to say, the influence, given us by two our then friends, ‘cannabis cookies’. How better to easy the stress of being married, than being under the influence of THC!

Alas. the marriage was rocky, and it lasted, formally, but many separations in between, only six years before dissolution. It was the first of three legal marriages I’d over the years had, the other two also being subsequently long lasting unsuccessful. As for the reasons, I may go into at some subsequent stage, though suffice to say that it was not the persons I married being at all in fault. Moreso, that it was me.

In 1971, I started my studies as a trainee psychiatric nurse in Newcastle, at the then Newcastle Psychiatric Centre, later to be known as James Fletcher Hospital. After the first year of training, some of it spent with highly intellectually disabled young patients either in childhood or youth, and needing very basic personal care, as they were unable to do it themselves, I then spent time in an adult ward wherein patients were often majorly distressed and psychotic, and where the treatments we used for these people, cf that used today, particularly the medications, and the electro shock therapy, was quite rudimentary. I’m so very pleased we have moved on, though I suspect there is certainly a way to go yet.

It was working at the then Newcastle Psychiatric Centre that I decided that I wanted to spend some time in the country, working at The Bloomfield Hospital, in Orange, another psychiatric hospital, though located in the mid NSW, not on the coast. So pack up I did.

It was quite a change I have to admit. The twelve months I spent there were largely spent in the areas of psycho geriatrics, looking after folk who were often having a history of severe chronic mental conditions, coupled with dementia. The emphasis, those days, being not so much on rehabilitation and recovery, as they are now, but on looking after the physical health needs, as much we could.

I returned back to Newcastle, after almost twelve months in Orange, renting, first a caravan, secondly, a house on a rural property, with a goat as pet companion (she hilariously wanting to jump into the back of my then Volkwagon Beetle whenever I went anywhere, being unfortunately later stolen, at which I was heartbroken), and having some minor experimentation, friends in Orange, with THC and LSD (loved the high of LSD, dancing around the Orange shopping centre to quadraphonic music in my head, but didn’t so much love the aftertast, and the paranoid belief that local police were chasing me in my little Volkwagon out of town, with goat in the back seat, when they really weren’t. That was almost the end of my experimentation with psychedelics, but not quite. The final arbiter that I should not use psychedelics ever again, came when I went along to a Cinema performance, under the influence of mescaline, of the screen play The Godfather. A truly aversion experience, and one which I’d sincerely recommend others not follow.

Returning back to Newcastle, my former partner and I reunited for a short time after us separating, and us both then subsequently living in a rather wonderful historic old building, at the top of The Hill, in Newcastle, and to were I often go back, nearby, these days after work to view the ocean, and to simply ponder. (After the trials and tribulations of a hard day at the office, dealing with persons suicidal and/or going through major hardship otherwise, its quite simply a lovely place to be; and pondering and reflection, being important the time to have, though little in our fast lives it seems to me we give ourselves to have).

After my finishing my psychiatric nursing in late 2004, we then off to England, me first, partner then following, second. We lived for a time with one my aunts, then when partner returned back to Australia, I moved into a nurses residential home for some months whilst working night duty at the local mental health unit, in the township of Billinge, mid way between Wigan and Liverpool. Missed my then partner, but quickly met other people, including another nurse who took me out to pubs and other social engagements, to Football matches at Liverpool and Everton, and thence to London, going to some shows there together. As well, during this period, and when not spent with friend, I did a lot of walking, exploring the Wigan area, walking the canals to Manchester, and elsewhere. Loved the time immensely. though then decided that it was time to do some further exploration, heavy back pack on back, firstly south eastern England, walking from London to Lands End, then going to Europe, where I also did many miles of walking, and hitchhiking, too.

Twas good, well mostly….

On one occasion in Italy the small tent in which I was sleeping was broken into, though nothing stolen. On a second occasion, whilst in Rome staying with a group of medical students a companion’s handbag was stolen by a thief, whilst the companion and I were in the streets celebreating the local election communist victory. On the third occasion whilst hitchhiking throughout the north of Italy a man, heavily smelling of garlic and God knows whatever else, having offered me a lift in his Fiat Bambino car, subsequently then exposed himself and began masturbating. Aversion therapy to sex 101, I thought.

Arriving back in Australia late 1975 I found there was a public sector freeze, and thus, no psychiatric nursing positions to be had in the public sector. Luckily, for the next few months until the freeze had ended I was able to gain myself a position in the private sector; at the then prestigious Northside Clinic, Greenwich, on Sydney’s North Shore. I would have preferred not to be working in the private sector, but at least it was in paid employment. Least, too, where I commenced learning some skills in behavioral therapy, and wherein I went on to meet my second partner, a nursing supervisor/occasional Acting Director of Nursing at Northside Clinic, and she some thirteen years older than I. We hit it off together, I moved in with she and her two adolescent children in a rented apartment on the North Shore, and subsequently in a civil celebration married, and stayed married together for the best part of ten, rather, reasonably, magnificent, years. The marriage ceremony we had, had not had in it the words, ‘for better or worse’, and now looking back in in hindsight, I wonder whether having those words inserted would have made any difference, making us working harder in our marriage than we indeed had.

The period, late seventies to the early eighties, was turbulent for us both: children problems, job changes, and financial difficulties, all put a strain on us. Too late, now for us to talk, though I wish we now could. Last you and I spoke was by letter, in 1996, twenty fours years ago. You then had severe emphysema, and I’ve heard since, that you are now dead. I’m so, so sorry.

After doing my general nursing training in the early eighties, before then some time in private practice as a hypnotherapist, and before that, on night duty in an inpatient mental health facility, whilst also doing so, at the same time,some BA studies at Macquarie University in Sydney (instructive, also, subsequent studies), the decision was made to take up a promotion located in Port Macquarie, the NSW Mid North Coast, as a Welfare Officer, pursuant Setion 34, the then 1958 NSW Mental Health Act, on a salary equivalent to that of a senior charge nurse back in the hospital system. I’d also kept my JP status, appointed late the 1970’s, and which also had power under the Act, so had adequate muscle to get someone into further assessment, if need be. Not that I used the power all that often, I didn’t, and having had the belief that if one had a mental illness, was not, as a consequence of the mental illness, physically harming oneself, nor physically harming others, then it was one’s due right to be left alone.

In 1984, coming to the rural Port Macquarie. NSW, region, I was the only mental health worker at the time, aside a psychiatrist in part time only private practice. Coming from an metropolitan area, wherein I had a multitude of assistance, here I had exceptionally little. It was good that I had some telephone consultation assistance from Newcastle, however, and that I had all the journals and text books, via the NSW Health Service library, that I ever needed and wished. That was so very good. It was a great crew to work with in the local community health service, and some great assistance when I needed it, reasonably often as it happened, from local police and ambulance. I well remember a couple of occasions I had got myself in to, and now regret, though luckily I had then police to rescue me. One of these, was whilst visiting a patient on leave from James Fletcher Hospital in Newcastle on a temporary treatment order, the then NSW MH Act. Not only was the patient extremely paranoid and psychotic on my visit, he was also showing his fine skills in karate, quite thrashing about, to not only myself, but to his relatives, as well. There were several other occasions in the period working in the Port Macquarie region, back then, that I almost came to grief, but of these perhaps more at a later time.

Late 1988, and then somewhat heavily influenced by my father to do so, and still finishing an undergraduate degree, I took employment as the coordinator of mental health services for zone three of the NSW South Western region, based in Wagga Wagga. The role was mainly to coordinate inpatient and community based services, provide direct management to the community teams, and to make recommendations for future expansion. In this role, I remained only twelve months, the pressure of it, together with the pressure of university studies, and the decision of then my partner and I to separate, making the leaving somewhat more palatable and, indeed, somewhat more stress relieving, than staying. If nothing else, in that twelve month period, I achieved, that which a predecessor had not achieved; a more harmonious and workable relationship between the inpatient and community teams, historically beforehand somewhat fractured. To that I felt reasonably proud.

Whilst at Wagga Wagga I applied for, and was successful, a part time mental health nurse position based in Hawks Nest, NSW, near relatives in Newcastle, and rather nearer to my daughter, in Port Macquarie, than hitherto. This was good in that allowed me, both time for completing my BA (Social Welfare) studies, and for being with my daughter, whom I had badly missed. Initially based in the idyllic Hawks Nest area, subsequently in Bulahdelah, and with regular meetings at HQ in Taree, many hundreds of kilometres were also covered in doing home visits throughout the area, ranging from Hawks Nest to the south, to Seal Rocks in the north. Additional the clinical work, there were also the opportunities to provide some community educational sessions, and small group work educational sessions in such things as self esteem training and assertiveness training, opportunities we’ve now for the most part since lost, due the priority necessarily given, due budget, on the clinical.

Two years in the Bulahdelah/Hawks Nest area, having by then secured my degree and with the research component that this had entailed, I was fortunate in securing, 1993, a one year funded, part time, position as a lecturer level D/clinical supervisor in the School of Nursing at The University of Newcastle. Initially only sixteen hours a week, over the span of year it burgeoned out to somewhat resembling a full time position, and it gave somewhat a greater appreciation, than I’d had, the difficulties had by those academic staff not with the benefit of having tenure. On the brighter side, the employment gave me a heavily discounted purchase price on my first ever computer, an Apple Color Classic, unlimited free tutorial from a then colleague on how to use the wretched thing, and as much free access to the university’s data bases, the libraries (the latter two, useful in the M.Social Policy studies I’d then begun), and to all the hard copy printing I would ever want to have done. Two of the, many, fondest memories I have of my daughter over the years, was, she then aged, 6, or so, sitting in the back of the classroom as I taught, and us being together in the university library, she doing her own thing, and I my own. Immensely I’m thankful of her putting up with me, then, as now.

Alas the funding for the Univ of Newcastle position I’d had, ran out in late 1993. For a short while I was unemployed, though, thankfully, having accrued a reasonable bank balance the past twelve months, I was not put out on the streets, homeless…


To be continued (perhaps)…..

To be continued (perhaps)…..

Written by Kaete

May 30, 2020 at 15:33

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