AS Glamorgan Vale’s Marilyn Jensen demonstrated the art of wool spinning at the Toowoomba Show, her unfolding yarn was nothing short of inspirational.
Recently retiring after dedicating nearly 50 years of life to the betterment of rural and remote healthcare, this ex-nurse is one of the newest members of the Toowoomba Spinners and Weavers Group - and a dedicated cattle-woman in her spare time.
After being headhunted from her urban nursing role in 2003 Marilyn was set the mammoth task of visiting regional hospitals in Northern and Southern Darling Downs and as far west as Quilpie to train rural staff members.
While most would dread living out of a suitcase for months at a time, Marilyn says the job was made for her.
“My role was basically to give people updates on their clinical practices and get staff educated and up to date,” she said.
“I really loved the challenge and jumped to attention and went straight away the moment they asked me.”
Marilyn said is essential that rural health professionals are provided up-to-date healthcare education.
“Drug treatments are always changing and now we have the Telehealth system where people need to know how to operate machinery.
With health care a topic hot on the rural agenda, she said it is the right of people in the bush to have access to medical services on par with their urban counterparts.
“People in the bush need to be cared for and they need to have people who are up-to-date with information,” Marilyn said.
“They are just as important as people in the city. Without those living in the bush, people in the city would have no food on their plates.”
With mounting pressures to staff rural and remote medical practices, Marilyn said training and support is key to ensuring this service is sustained.
“There are people who desperately want to be working in the bush and they should be supported adequately to provide a service to those living in the outback,” she said.
“People in rural hospitals don’t actually have enough staff to cover those who go away for training. So by going out there I was able to deliver some of that education to them, while not taking away from the service being provided. “
With domestic tourism all the rage among ‘grey nomads,’ Marilyn said remote health care can be a big issue for those needing specialist treatment or medication.
“People in the remote hospitals need to be switched on and know a lot of things. Or at least be able to know where to look it up if they don’t.”
While her role didn’t come without a fair share of hardship and resistance, Marilyn said change is necessary in order to evolve.
“If you aren’t out and actively learning, you will get nowhere.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it, have fond memories and made a lot of friends while I was there.
“If I ever go back out past any of those places where I was worked, I will definitely be calling in to see them.”
After closing the door on an intense career, Marilyn said craft is something that helped her unwind.
And as the highest point scorer in the spinning and weaving classes at the Toowoomba Show, it would appear Marilyn’s passion for learning was intrinsic from birth.
Paying homage to her great-grandmother’s lace-working skills, Marilyn said she has had a love for craft throughout her life.
“I had various mentors growing up. All of the women in my family learned home-care skills like dressmaking and how to sew a button on when we were about 10 years of age,” she said.
While Marilyn’s domestic skills have earned her top honours this year, she feared the art is being lost.
“I’d like to see some of the schools bringing life skills back into their curriculums,” she said.
“It is important to be able to sew a button on, sew a zip in, bring a hem up, iron a shirt and know how to cook a meal.”