OAM for healthcare champion

Samantha Turner has been awarded an OAM for services to nursing and the community.

It takes courage, education and passion to transform a country’s approach to maternal child health services.

They’re key ingredients to Samantha Turner’s success in changing lives of women and children in countries across the world through her volunteer and advocacy work.

The Macedon resident was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia in the King’s Birthday Honours last week for services to nursing and the community.

Sam credits an ambitious Rotary International maternal child healthcare education project in Mongolia as one of the most successful she has been involved with.

“We introduced child and maternal health education to the country,” she said.

“In order to do that, we had to write and put together a childhood education curriculum and embed it into the university, and get the health department on board, people to be involved in training, and managed to roll it out across the whole country. It took about six to seven years.

“Then the government of the country funded and gave money to incentivise women to attend childhood education and it really helped reduce child mortalities in communities.”

Sam is currently involved with a similar maternal child health Rotary International project now under way in Nepal (since 2019).

Of course, there have been many challenges along the way for both projects including language barriers, negotiation and cultural sensitivities.

Sam said there was no maternal and child healthcare system that compared to the quality of what is available in Australia.

Her next goal is try to replicate it in countries around the world that don’t have these supports in place.

“It would be good to take something that we’ve got and done so well with and take it to countries where they need the help,” she said.

Sam said her early nursing career in Katherine and Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, was good preparation for her international work.

There, she was faced with similar challenges of remoteness, language barriers and a high level of care and education needed.

It is where she also became an educator with Wurli-Wurlinjang Health Service and that led to further study in sexual and reproductive health and work in family planning.

Soon after, she helped accredit sexual health clinics in places like Kuala Lumpur, Vietnam, Indonesia and Mongolia, as a board member and representative for Family Planning Australia.

“I started to realise that I really wanted to make a difference and wanted to help develop communities and invest in knowledge for long-term change,” she said.

She developed, taught and lectured in special modules for Northern Territory University, Australian Catholic University Victoria and Victoria University, and was awarded for innovation in education.

Sam has been able to achieve her volunteer work with the support of her family.

She is continuing her international project volunteer work and is also a maternal child health nurse at Macedon Ranges Health where she has worked since 2015.

She credits Macedon Ranges’ service as one of the best offered in the state with highly experienced staff and a strong comradery between them.

Sam is member of Rotary Club of Gisborne and Macedon Ranges where she was president 2016-17 and also a board member for six year. She has also been awarded Rotary’s Paul Harris Fellow and Royce Abbey Champion of Change Award (2017).

Samantha Turner was involved with a highly success educational project in Mongolia.