By Sarah Collier
Gardiner Foundation Tertiary Scholarship recipient, Lauren Brewer, never thought life would lead her to her current workplace, a remote mine site in the Gibson Desert, located three hours north of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. “The most rewarding part is seeing the impact you can make in such a remote community and workplace,” she said. “People say they want to go into healthcare to make a difference. Out there you actually see the difference.”
With the site still early on in the exploration phase, she is the only paramedic, supported by one nurse and an emergency services officer, rotating with another healthcare team on their week off. “We have to teach ourselves and we have to adapt and find solutions for problems we didn’t ever think we’d face,” she said. “It’s also about being prepared. You need to be on top of things like orders and use by dates. If you suddenly have a massive incident but only have three IV needles you have a problem.”
Applying for a fly in, fly out job in such a remote location wasn’t the easiest choice, but so far, the most rewarding. “We’ve all done our part to be there. The selection process is very rigorous and took three months after applying,” she said. “I love the community and people. Everyone knows everyone. They’re my family now. They are all extraordinary and incredibly resilient, everyone brings something different to the team. And the vastness and the beauty of the area is very special. Coming back home to Warragul doesn’t feel real.”
Working and living in the same place isn’t always easy, but Lauren has found ways to separate her private and work life. “If you are mentally always at work because your home is work, it’s hard to keep on top of your mental health. You have to compartmentalise. You have to make sure you separate home and work,” she said.
She’s not only taking care of herself physically but also mentally, making sure she’s up for such a demanding job. “You need good mental health and coping strategies. I go to bed early for example and always make sure to acknowledge when I need a break,” Lauren said. “It’s also important to manage stress. Don’t push yourself when your body needs something else. Reach out if you need help. If you can’t manage your own stress and health, you can’t help anyone else.”
Lauren believes in trying different things and exploring more than one avenue. “You have to find what’s right for you, because the first thing might not be it,” she said. “I’ve done Covid testing and worked for Ambulance Victoria casually but knew it wasn’t what I needed right now in this stage of my life. But I just needed to keep looking. Things don’t always go to plan and that’s okay. Goals also might change overtime and that’s okay too.”
He family lived on a beef farm in Neerim in Gippsland, before moving to Warragul when she was four. Her grandma is still farming in Warragul today. “All my early memories are of the farm and cows,” she said.
She followed in her grandfather and father’s footsteps when she did her training to become a volunteer fire fighter at the age of sixteen. While she didn’t see herself working at a fire station full-time, she had a few opportunities to work alongside paramedics at emergency incidents, which inspired her to apply for a course at university.
But being able to go to university wasn’t just about getting accepted into the course, she also had to find a way to move to the city. “I was the first person in my family to even consider going to Uni. Being from a rural town, I didn’t even know anyone who’d gone to Uni. I didn’t know what the options were,” she said.
Lauren applied for a Gardiner Tertiary Scholarship after seeing an article about it in the local paper; she didn’t think she had a chance to actually get it. “I never even expected to hear back. But it was really exciting to get the interview,” she said. “Travelling back and forth from University would have taken a lot of time, so I knew I had to move. I ticked the requirement boxes enough for the scholarship and thought I’d give it a shot.”
When she got word that she received the scholarship, it meant she was able to move to go to university. “Without the scholarship it would have been a nightmare. It wasn’t going to be doable,” she said. “The scholarship was a critical part in my life which has led me to the work I’m in now. I don’t know where I would have ended up without it.”
Lauren continues to educate herself and is currently enrolled in Graduate Certificate in Indigenous Cultural Competency and is planning on doing her Certificate III in Emergency Mine Response and Rescue. “I need to improve my understanding on how to communicate and work with Indigenous communities and everyone on site, and I need to upskill so I can offer the best assistance when its needed, no matter the situation,” she said. “Out here, every day is something new. It makes me want to be the best I can be. The environment is inspiring. I go out there and I want to do and learn more.”
Applications for Gardiner Foundation Tertiary Scholarships open on August 29. To be eligible, students must start their first year of full-time tertiary study in 2023 and need to relocate from home due to study commitments.
For more information and to apply visit www.gardinerfoundation.com.au/ts