Cowra nurse remembers her 10 years in Africa

Julie Clements, Muriel Corey, Joy Bonnor and Cheryl McAlister pictured at the Cowra Evening CWA meeting.
Julie Clements, Muriel Corey, Joy Bonnor and Cheryl McAlister pictured at the Cowra Evening CWA meeting.

The guest speaker at the March meeting of Cowra Evening CWA was Muriel Corey of Cowra.

Muriel has had a varied career in nursing and later high school teaching.

Her talk was about her ten years nursing in Africa, that was mostly spent in rural South Africa in a region near Kruger National Park.

Muriel's work was part of a research programme by the University of Witteswrand about maternal health and birthing practices.

She was there during the Apartheid years and the Mandela government that followed.

Her first placement was in a racially segregated rural hospital.

Due to a doctor scarcity in this impoverished area, primary care nurses had to treat patients as best they could instead.

The area had a very high infantile and maternal death rate.

Muriel showed great slides of Shangan and Sotho women wearing beautifully colourful clothes on festival occasions and others showing them working at subsistence farming, carting water, cooking and meeting together.

The men tended to be away a lot working in the gold mines.

Unfortunately domestic violence and rape occurred and was not acted upon by local authorities.

The women were very courageous, smart, strong, hard-working and very resilient.

Everyone was expected to be brave and stoical when enduring pain, so to cry and scream during child birth was a big no-no in their culture.

Traditional healers and birth attendants were trusted more than Western style medicine and a compromise saw them allowed to attend to women in labour when giving birth in Western clinics.

A new born baby was kept indoors for six months and then paraded around the village in a day of celebratory singing dancing and prayer.

Fear of witchcraft was very real even though missionaries had made converts.

The traditional healer, the Sangoma (a man or a woman) provided protective strategies against witchcraft.

Muriel returned to South Africa last year and it was a joyous occasion to see some of her friends and she was pleased to see that the situation had improved.

Muriel was thanked by former Cowra High School colleague, Julie Clements, and presented with a floral gift.

Unfortunately, our April meeting has been cancelled due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.