I’ve often said to other remote area nurses that we haven’t done ourselves any favours by doing the work that we do as we often feel we don’t fit in anywhere anymore. I read something recently that reinforced that opinion. In a book called “Other People’s Country” by Maureen Helen, her account of her work in remote Western Australia in the nineties, she speaks with a nurse who’s leaving after many years working in the same community: “It was to have been my big adventure,” she said wryly. ‘I’d planned it for a couple of years and thought I was lucky to get this job. But I hate the heat. And I miss my family, ‘she confides. ‘Sometimes I can’t remember why I came. everything’s so different. It’s like a foreign country, isn’t it? I feel as if I can’t talk to people who’ve never been here because they don’t understand. And people who live up here permanently are so comfortable they’re almost smug.”
To name something or somebody is to imbue a sense of meaning, to call forth into existence and to welcome with belonging. There are different naming customs among Indigenous Australians, at birth and at death. In Aurukun when a person dies their Christian name is replaced with a generic name, Tarpich. Anyone else in the community who shares the same name is also known as Tarpich. It is a tradition of un-naming, of letting go of meaning, existence and belonging and encouraging the spirit on it’s journey to freedom.