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Shine Awards 2021 winners: Nurse’s resilience after life-threatening crash


One rural Queensland nurse couldn’t have predicted the challenges that lay ahead when she got a phone call in the middle of the night during the pandemic.

For some people, double shifts and out-of-hours calls would be reason enough to swap careers. But for Elyse Hannan, director of nursing in Dirranbandi, it’s all part of the job — and a part she accepts graciously.

As a leader in the rural community’s small hospital — located 600km west of Brisbane — Elyse is used to working with limited resources and thinking on her feet. Throw in a global pandemic, though, and for Elyse and her team, things became even more of a challenge.

When the phone rang at 1am recently — with news of a road accident, a patient in a “life-threatening emergency” — she was forced to summon all her bravery.

Racing to the hospital, Elyse led a three-person team in the middle of the night to perform treatment and resuscitation on the patient, until a retrieval response unit could get there to transfer them.

And while dialling in to a remote expert for guidance during urgent care is part and parcel of the job, that night there was an added hurdle — Elyse’s advising doctor was in lockdown in his Brisbane home because of Covid-19 restrictions, meaning his instructions were given via an iPad.

“It was pretty tough at the time but when you look back and think, ‘Well I might have saved that person’s life or helped that family through something’, then that sort of makes it all worthwhile and keeps me going,” Elyse said.

Because she’s in a remote setting, the 35-year-old has to deal with everything — from acute emergencies to long-term palliative care. It’s both demanding and rewarding, she said.

“We do see everything,” she added.

“From assisting with babies being born to holding the hands of people passing away. That is one thing very special about rural practice.”

Losing her own mum, a head teacher at Boggabilla TAFE who went to great lengths for her community, was what inspired Elyse to go into rural health.

“My mother passed away very suddenly when I was in my graduate year. That was the motivation to go forward and follow in her footsteps,” she said, adding that improving outcomes for her community is what drives her most.

“The community puts a lot of faith in you to focus on improving things and you hope to make a difference.”

Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed — with Elyse the winner of this year’s Shine Award for Courage.

Since 2017, the awards, run by The Weekly Times and Harvey Norman, recognise the stories of women doing extraordinary work in communities and industries across Australia that many know very little about.

Among the others honoured this year are pastoralist Ruth Sandow — who, as chair of NSW’s Milparinka Heritage and Tourism Association, has been the driving force behind developing a 1100km touring loop that retraces Charles Sturt’s famous expedition made 177 years ago.

Shine Award for Grace winner, Tamsin Carvan, is the founder of The Borough Dept. Store in Korumburra, Victoria, a retail and cafe collaboration with four small businesses trading under the one roof.

But its viability has been threatened by Covid-19 — which threw Victorian retailers and hospitality into survival mode.

“There were so many times I thought we were done for. Amazingly we have survived,” she said.

“In the end, nothing matters except the people and the love you make out there. The quality of your relationships with people is what it’s all about.”

Youth Award winners Bonnie, 23, Molly, 21, Jemima, 19, and Matilda, 17, meanwhile, love life in the beef business — where along with their parents, they run cattle across the family’s 40,000 hectares at Meandarra and Yaraka on Queensland’s Western Downs.

The sisters are hands-on in all respects, and have been integral to launching the family’s new premium 150-day grain-fed beef brand, Four Daughters.

“We see it as our future,” Bonnie said.

You can read more about this year’s Shine Award winners at The Weekly Times.

Originally published as Shine Awards 2021 winners: Nurse’s resilience after life-threatening crash

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