Proud Indigenous woman Georgie Baker spent the better part of 20 years focusing on raising her four children, working in a range of casual roles to support her family. It wasn’t until her eldest daughter was graduating high school that she decided it was time to put herself first. As the first in her immediate family to complete tertiary studies, she's now a role model in her community, helping to promote Indigenous health as a fully-qualified Enrolled Nurse.
“I was a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. I tried everything, from being a taxi driver to a flower farmer and a school cleaner,” Georgie said.
Georgie's children played an important role in her decision to realise her career goals.
“I’m proud to be able to set an example for my children and community and show them that no matter what age you are, or what experiences you’ve had, your goals can still be achieved," she said.
Drawing on her years of experience caring for others, she decided to pursue a career in nursing, completing her Diploma of Nursing (HLT54115) at TAFE Queensland.
"I needed a career and I chose nursing because I just knew I could do it. Its not always a glamorous job and a lot of people shy away from nursing for that reason alone, but it really doesn't bother me — I'm a mother of four so I'm used to dealing with anything," Georgina said.
When weighing up her study options, TAFE Queensland stood out for Georgie as she needed something flexible and didn't want to spend years studying full time at university before she got a qualification.
"I decided to study with TAFE Queensland for my diploma because the time frame was just 18 months. Plus the two days a week on campus was flexible enough to fit into my normal life routine with kids and casual work," she said.
Although she was passionate about her career choice, going back to study wasn't an easy decision. Things had changed a lot since the last time Georgie completed formal studies and she was worried she wouldn't be able to keep up.
"To return to study as a mature-aged student was terrifying — but only for the first few moments. Because once you're there and you realise what support you have available, it's so doable," she said.
Georgie credits the support of her teaching staff for helping her through her study journey.
"The nursing teachers and staff were just amazing — positive, a wealth of information, passionate about nursing, and open and willing to share their information — they were just so friendly and easy to approach. It made it a good place to be, having that support and that leadership from the teachers," she said.
Despite her concerns, Georgie surprised even herself, facing her fears and successfully completing her studies with flying colours. She even became a leader and mentor among her peers, helping and supporting other students on their learning journey.
While Georgie admits that nursing can be a challenging career, she also finds it incredibly fulfilling.
"You're working in an environment where the immediate goal is to get that person back home to their family safe and well, and that's something that I'm passionate about. There's nothing better than getting to say goodbye to them — and hopefully we don't get to see them again because they're well — and that's an ideal outcome as a nurse."
Now the woman who didn't finish high school is planning on taking her career to the next level and continuing her studies at university.
"In the future I see myself returning to study and doing a bachelor degree to become a registered nurse. With returning to study it's not a three year degree, you get credit for your diploma studies at TAFE Queensland so that reduces the time you need to be at uni to come out with a nursing degree," she said.
Georgie welcomes the opportunity to play a vital role in closing the healthcare gap for Indigenous people, and she hopes her children will follow a similar career path in the future.
“I hope my kids go on and do something to contribute to Indigenous services in some way. The opportunities are there. I want them to know that their culture and background is to be protected and is important. There are many out there that need that protection and support,” Georgie said.