Queensland and Australia have lost a fearless, trailblazing leader that dedicated more than 60 years to improving the health and wellbeing outcomes of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders.
Aunty Pamela Mam (nee Ah-kee/Bligh) was born in 1938 in Richmond, western Queensland, and was a descendent of the Kuku Yalanji peoples in the Cooktown area.
After her mother was removed from Cooktown under the then Australian Government policy of Assimilation for Aboriginal People, Aunty Pamela spent her formative years on Palm Island. It was on Palm Island that she realised her passion for nursing.
She started her remarkable career as a Nurse Aid at Palm Island Hospital, and later received permission to train as a nurse at Townsville Hospital, becoming one of the first Aboriginal nurses in Queensland.
She went on to study midwifery at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Brisbane. During this time, together with her late husband, Uncle Steve Mam, she was highly active in advocating for and establishing many health services that exist today for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
I’d like to convey my appreciation, on behalf of all Queenslanders, for the good she achieved.
Aunty Pamela’s passion for the healthcare needs of First Nations people came to the forefront in 1973, when she helped establish the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Health Service (ATSICHS) Brisbane.
ATSICHS continues to deliver Aunty Pamela’s vision 47 years later. Today, this community owned and managed organisation is one of the largest First Nations community organisations in Queensland, offering primary health care, aged care, family and child safety services and a youth service, to enhance the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the wider Brisbane community.
In 2015, Griffith University in conjunction with ATSICHS Brisbane, established the Aunty Pamela Mam Indigenous Nursing Scholarship to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nursing and midwifery students.
Aunty Pamela 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 was an inspirational figure who has created an ongoing legacy of compassion and commitment for health care for First Nations Queenslanders.
Aunty Pamela is survived by Steve Ware Snr, Tomisina Ahwang, William Mam(dec), Brent Lee, Yessa Mam, Mukubi Mam, grand-children, great grand-children and great great grand-children.
Minister for Health and Minister for Ambulance Services
The Honourable Steven Miles