Tributes flow for trailblazing indigenous leader
AUNTY Pamela Mam, a trailblazing indigenous leader who began her remarkable health career on Palm Island and went on to advocate for and establish health services for First Nations people has died. She was 81.
Mrs Mam, a descendant of the Kuku Yalanji peoples in the Cooktown area, was born in Richmond in 1938.
She spent her formative years on Palm Island, 70km off Townsville's coast, after her mother was removed from Cooktown under the oppressive Federal Government policy of Assimilation for Aboriginal people of the time.
It was on Palm Island that Mrs Mam discovered her passion for nursing, starting as a nurse aid at Palm Island Hospital before receiving permission to train as a nurse at Townsville Hospital between 1954 and 1959 to become of the first Aboriginal nurses in Queensland.
Next she studied midwifery at the Royal Women's Hospital in Brisbane, and together with her late husband Steve Mam, became highly active in advocating for indigenous health services before helping establish the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community health Service (ATSICHS) in Brisbane in 1973.
Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council chief executive Neil Willmett said Mrs Mam succeeded tremendously in both her career and her personal life and was loved and cared for by many.
Health Minister Steven Miles conveyed his appreciation for the good Mrs Mam had achieved.
"Aunty Pamela was an inspirational figure who has created an ongoing legacy of compassion and commitment for health care for First Nations Queenslanders," he said.
ATSICHS, as it exists today, is one of the largest First Nations community owned and managed organisations in Queensland, offering primary health care, aged care, family and child safety services and a youth service.
A scholarship in Mrs Mam's name was created in 2015 by Griffith University in conjunction with ATSICHS Brisbane, called the Aunty Pamela Mam Indigenous Nursing Scholarship, to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nursing and midwifery students.
She was awarded an honorary doctorate from Griffith University in December 2018 for her service to her people in health services and to the community. She was also named as a life member of the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council and ATSICHS Brisbane, and patron for the Institute of Urban indigenous Health.
Aunty Pamela passed away on January 17, 2020 and is survived by Steve Ware Snr, Tomisina Ahwang, William Mam (dec), Brent Lee, Yessa Mam, Mukubi Mam, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great grandchildren.