After training for four years between Perth and Adelaide to become a Registered Nurse, Shirley entered the workforce and discovered the many different paths that nursing can take you.
In 1957 Shirley ventured to Melbourne to obtain her midwifery qualification, but before doing so, she met her future husband, Bob.
“He was an Adelaide man and we met in Adelaide; we were set up on a blind date would you believe it!”
“His friend and my friend set us up and begrudgingly we got together.”
“But he was such a lovely person, right from the word go.”
“I went to my friend Judy after she set us up and I told her, ‘I am going to marry that man’.”
For Shirley’s first few years establishing her career as a nurse in the workforce, she took on a lot of agency work.
It wasn’t until the 60’s that she tells me her career took off in a completely different direction.
“I ended up working in the head injury unit down at Hampstead.”
“It was the best career move that ever happened to me, I just thought it was fabulous.”
Shirley tells me it’s hard to put it into words why that job meant so much to her, but this is her attempt:
“Because you are dealing with a lot of car accidents and things like that, you can imagine there is a lot of young people as patients and although it was confronting, there were a couple of lads that really stood out to me.”
“One was my patient, Steve, who had suffered a head injury from falling off his push bike at age 12, and I believe he received quite a significant settlement.
“His family had bought a business which eventually went broke, and then they all disappeared and left Steve by himself.
“He didn’t have a very good history, but I connected with him, and for the five years I nursed for him, he would call me mum.”
Shirley is so fond of the success and impact she made on her patients’ lives whilst nursing in the Brain Injury Unit. She knows she achieved great things for the young people on her ward and is proud of it.
“I think one of the reasons I was so successful with the young patients, was because I had teenage sons at the time, and I just knew what would work and what wouldn’t.”
“I felt I was really doing something.”
Shirley was amongst the nurses and health professionals that moved out to Julia Farr, formerly known as The Home for Incurables, when her Unit was shifted from Hampstead.
Shirley eventually left the workforce and that’s when her second life took off…travelling.
“My children were grown up, two out of three of my children got into nursing, and my husband and I went travelling.”
“It all began because our 25th wedding anniversary was coming up.
“I said to Bob that we weren’t going to have a party because I always end up doing all the work!
“I said ‘what say we go on a trip or something’, and so, we were thinking about Bali.”
Shirley tells me that they had considered a few other places too, like Darwin or Queensland.
“Then one day Bob comes home and drops this pamphlet on the table…for the Greek islands.
“He said to me, ‘what do you think about this?’
“I said ‘when do we leave’.”
With a retirement full of overseas travel, watching her children excel in their respective careers and a sense of fulfilment from her former working life, Shirley is a very kind, happy lady with a soft and infectious smile.