Dr Deborah Prior, Scholarship Winner

Dr Deborah Prior, Scholarship Winner & Centaur Fellow

The Dr Deborah Prior Story

Dr Deborah Prior was the President of our fund from 2009 until 2014. In these videos and her own words this is her story. She tells of how she first became involved with the fund and how she then went on to become the fund’s President for five years. She was interviewed early in 2015 by Professor Margaret McAllister. Margaret was also a fund scholarship winner early in her career.

A scholarship winner

Before she became our President, Deborah won a scholarship from our fund for her PhD thesis entitled: “Cultural strengths and social needs of Aboriginal women with cancer: Take away the cancer but leave me whole”.

The study explored the meaning of cancer for rural Aboriginal women in Australia. The focus of the study included the cultural context influencing Aboriginal women’s decision-making about cancer treatment and cancer support services.

Excerpt One

“I had heard of the Centaur Memorial Fund.”

Excerpt length 32 seconds.

At the end of this excerpt is a blue link icon link icon  that you will see whilst it is playing. Clicking on the icon will take you to that part of the longer video below that it relates to.

Excerpt Three

“Looking back over the long history of Centaur, what has been its contribution.”

Excerpt length 57 seconds.

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Excerpt Two

“PhDs are very hard and long'”

Excerpt length 66 seconds.

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Excerpt Four

“The important things that the Centaur Memorial Fund has done.”

Excerpt length 34 seconds.

At the end of this excerpt is a blue link icon link icon  that you will see whilst it is playing. Clicking on the icon will take you to that part of the longer video below that it relates to.

Full Version

Approximately 15 minutes in length.

What has been my involvement in the Centaur Memorial Fund for Nurses? My actual involvement started when I was looking for a scholarship for my PHD. I had heard and certainly knew of the Centaur Memorial Fund before when I was an educator at the Royal Brisbane Hospital, several of the educators there used to help with the fundraising and support Centaur, and I knew there was Centaur House in Queens Street, and I certainly knew Pixie Annat in those days when she was at St Andrews. Anyway so, but I hadn't really gotten involved until I wanted some money. So I applied for, and was successful and I felt very, very honored to actually to get the scholarship. I don't have many others applied, but it didn't matter because I got it.

So that was my first entree into Centaur and understanding a bit more about what it was doing, and then once I had my scholarship, of course we had the reporting that was required for that. It was important to have that added prestige of having, being a Centaur Fellow because that was perceived in the nursing, Queensland nursing fraternity very much as being quite a prestigious thing to have, and in getting the scholarship you're not just taking it and going, you do become part of that support network and I found myself connected with the senior fraternity of nursing through, I think Susan Cameron was one, I just remembered

Susan Cameron actually. Pixie Annat of course, who was a well known matriarch of nursing and pioneer in many respects. Joan Godfrey, who pioneered a lot of education for nursing in Queensland, and of course headed the first School of Nursing at the QIT in the 1980s, and I suddenly found I was connected to all these people on a collegial level, so it did have a lot of prestige to it. And from getting the scholarship and being more involved, I then next found myself on the committee, the management committee.

The PHD is, as we all know, very, very hard and long, but I've never regretted doing it, never. It was a fantastic experience. But yes, I was working at, I don't know if you remember ACU set up the first clinical lecturer's position at the Mater, and because oncology palliative care was the flavor of the year, I got that position and that's when I recognized that the Aboriginal local people weren't using the services, and I thought, well, did they not get cancer? How weird, ridiculous! So I did a bit of background stuff and realized that a lot of problems seemed to be that they didn't follow through on the like, cancer counselling program for mammograms and pap smears was quite successful, but that was as far as it went.

So they went and had their mammogram, but they didn't go any further. Survival, well, that was very low in uptake. Very, very rarely saw Aboriginal people using the services in oncology or palliative care, but you often found that they would have the screening tests done, but they wouldn't return for follow up, or they would even get as far as being treated, but they wouldn't complete the treatments. And I guess I have an inherent interest in culture differences because of my own heritage, and I thought why is this happening? So I started to look at it actually in the mid 90s, but I did my Masters. You're asking I was awarded the fellowship, as it was called then, we called it a scholarship and what happened then? Getting that scholarship quite honestly was the turning point in my PHD because as everybody who's done a PHD knows, there are times when you have a lot of self doubt, and also you realize it's very, very resource intensive in terms of your time and money.

If I wanted to do the research I intended I needed to go to different communities, and that's costly, that's costly. I was putting a child through private education at the time, so I had to look at my dollars, and getting that scholarship just made the difference, A, it said that another organization outside of myself believed in me, in my research, and B, it gave me the money to do it.

And it was $15,000, and I was able to travel to the communities to get my data because I went to Palm Island and Woorabinda both of which required flights, it wasn't cheap, and I got a laptop. So it equipped me to do it, and it just gave me confidence because your supervisor keeps encouraging you, encouraging you, but to have somebody external give you that confidence, so that fellowship was the turning point for me.

The current president Joy, forgive me, Joy Croker, we had met up at a conference. I was invited to speak at a conference in Oslo for the Carts Nursing Group, and I met Joy there and lovely, fantastic lady, had so much energy and life. She was a little bit older than me and she was keeping me up, I wanted to go to bed, and we kind of formed a bit of respectful friendship from there, and when we came back she phoned up.

She said, Deborah, we could do with you on the committee. So feeling I owed the committee something anyway, I said, Yes I'd be delighted. I felt quite honored actually to be invited because I knew people like Pixie were on there, and Pixie, I'd always looked up to as one of the matriarchs of nursing in Queensland, so I was quite honored to be asked. So that's how I got onto the committee, just on the management committee, and of course poor Joy died a couple of years later. So I went from being on the committee and doing my bit to becoming president as things happen, don't they? And I was president actually for 10 years until April of this year, 2014.

Thinking back over the long history of Centaur Memorial Fund for Nurses, what has been its contribution to nursing? I think were two things, it kept an important part of nursing history alive because often we forget what others have sacrificed or had to give to nursing, and I think nursing history generally doesn't get the focus it used to, and we do forget that, and history is important.

And the other thing its given is, as it gave to me, a boost of encouragement for nurses doing their PHD. It supports education in the undergraduate level by rewarding new graduates that have done particularly well in the nursing area, and it provides that, because nowadays when you're doing a PHD you need to get all the money that you can, and getting a scholarship, it adds a bit of prestige and it's really good to add that to your curriculum that you got it, and until I'd retired, I'd still added that, that I was an awardee, a Centaur Fellow. So they're probably the important things that the Centaur Memorial Fund has done, keeping that history alive and supporting nurses doing further, higher level education, and rewarding those juniors as well, their incoming, actually they're juniors, if you don't know it's the new graduates to make it.

And over that section, I know you were the first one, but all of them, we used to give money and we can't afford to do that now, but they all get a bigger buzz out of that Silver Medal, and we had one when I was on the committee about two, three years ago, he was heartbroken that his had been lost in a house move and wrote to us at the committee asking if we could replace it, but of course we can't because it's a one off for that particular individual. If you start replicating them, it loses its value really. But to think out of all the things that this student, or this graduate would have had, this loss of the Silver Medal was the biggest devastation.

So obviously that's very important to them, to get that. So I think the relevance of Centaur Memorial Fund is in supporting that in the future. Can I recall and talk about significant moments in Centaur Memorial Fund's history? Yes I can, I'm just going to have to go way back. If we go back to, and you have to check on the dates here, but when the Centaur was finally located by David Mearns and his team.

That was very significant because it brought the whole story back in profile, and we had this extraordinary commemorative service at St. John's Cathedral. I say extraordinary because the representations from Quentin Bryce herself, the then Governor of Australia, I can't remember who else represented the federal government, but it would be in that video. Local members, Anna Bligh was there, our Premier was there.

It was extraordinary, and we got very good media coverage and that was very significant for the Fund as well because it was saying, And yes we're still here, we're still promoting their history. We're still treasuring them, that story. So that was very significant, and as I said, I had the privilege of actually lighting the candle for the nurses. I couldn't believe that, it was quite an emotional day actually all round, and as one of the family members said, that this doesn't mean to say that's the end of anything because it's a story that cannot be forgotten, and not just because of what happened to Centaur, but because of what had happened to a lot of other medical nursing personnel in the service at the time, it almost reflected all that. Another significant moment, there was a similar service, to tell you what it is I've got to delve into my memory a little bit here. Quentin Bryce was a great patron, and she actually allowed us to host the AGM at Government House on two occasions, and again that was significant because like all organizations it's just easy to forget they're any relevant because they've been going around, they've been in existence for so long, but by Quentin Bryce's patronage it again gave us that profile because she saw that we were significant, and therefore our own profession realized yes, it's still relevant, its still got something to offer. I found that that was quite an important time as well. I think every year on the 14th of May

at Memorial Service are significant moments. They, as I said, in the probably 15 or so I've been to meeting the relatives of either the victims or the survivors is very poignant and makes you realize, because every time you hear their story you realize the effects of their tragedy, and you realize how the families were affected, and they tell you a bit of their memory of it and when they were told or they heard of the attack. So I think every year on the 14th of may is significant to the Fund, and there might others I think of, but they don't just come to mind at the moment.
  • Dr Deborah Prior and Thesis

    Dr Deborah Prior and Thesis

    “Cultural strengths and social needs of Aboriginal women with cancer: take away the cancer but leave me whole.”
  • the sterile clinical examination - a surreal experience

    Thesis artist: Julie Rogers

    “The sterile clinical examination – a surreal experience.”
  • take away the cancer but leave me whole

    Thesis artist: Julie Rogers

    “Take away the cancer but leave me whole.”
  • Day of the oral history interview

    Day of the oral history interview

    From left: Sharon Bouttell RN, Dr Deborah Prior, Prof Margaret McAllister
  • the body-spirit connection of breast self-examination

    Thesis artist: Julie Rogers

    “The body-spirit connection of breast self-examination.”
  • thesis title and sample text

    Thesis title and sample text

    “Cultural strengths and social needs of Aboriginal women with cancer: take away the cancer but leave me whole.”
  • Dr Deborah Prior and thesis

    Dr Deborah Prior and Thesis

  • partners agains cancer

    Thesis artist: Julie Rogers

    “Partners against cancer.”
  • Sample thesis-text

    Sample thesis-text

    “Aboriginal people are astute observers of outsiders …”