Helene Overment (McCormack, 1964)

What has your journey been since leaving Santa Maria College?

In January 1965, after leaving school, I worked as a private secretary for Mr Herlihy, an accountant. His twin granddaughters started at Santa Maria the year I started working for Mr Herlihy. In August, 1965 I began my nursing career at Princess Margaret Hospital. I married and spent time in Narrogin as a ward sister.

Eventually my husband and I went to the UK and I started my midwifery training at Worcester and Keighley for Part One and Part Two Midwifery. I worked as a staff midwife at Worcester and moved onto Kingston Hospital as a sister. I then applied to do my Midwife Teachers Diploma. I was successful in getting two places one at the Royal College of Midwifery and one at the live-in course at High Coomb. However, because I was Australian no one would second me, but eventually I received a part-time secondment.

I went to High Coomb but the day before I started, my parents, who had arrived in the U.K four weeks previously for a holiday, were involved in a car accident. Dad was unfortunately killed and my mother was seriously injured by a drunk driver. My mother was an inpatient at Kingston Hospital for six months of my course.

My first teaching position was at Cockfied and Crawley Midwifery School and Carlshalton Midwifery School. Unfortunately, I had to return to WA for the court case that resulted from my parents’ accident.

While I was at home, I was offered a position as a senior lecturer at WAIT. I worked for 12 months teaching nursing students, post-registration degree students, social worker degree students, and physiotherapy degree students.

I decided to undertake my degree as a full-time student and undertake distance learning. I was given 12 months exemption and undertook the degree in 12 months. I also worked at Attadale Maternity Private Hospital and while there was headhunted for a position at Western Australian School of Nursing.

I went on to represent the school as the first nurse educator on the WA Department of Health Board in the state. Eventually, I returned to the U.K. for a position as Senior Midwife Teacher at Ipswich Hospital Suffolk. I also married for the second time and we had a son Leif.

What has been a highlight along the way?

During my time at Ipswich I became Director of Midwifery and had three midwifery schools. I developed a new Curriculum of Midwifery which was used by the English National Board as an example of curriculum development. I sold many of my courses and curriculums including to the Swiss Red Cross and Finland. The money of £30,000, that I raised, I used to upgrade many of my staff to degree level and became the first midwifery school with degree lecturers. Mine was the first midwifery school to offer direct midwifery training in the UK being awarded £20,000 by the British Government to fund the course.

I formed the International Midwife Teachers Group and was chosen to advise the Finnish Government on the preparation of Midwifery service and education for their entry to the European Union. 

What is one of your fondest memories from your time at Santa Maria College?

I enjoyed my time at Santa Maria but as I suffered asthma my memory is of Irene Swift carrying my books up the many stairs to the top classroom. I loved swimming and broke the school record for breaststroke. I found some of the nuns terrifying but many endearing and enjoyed Art, Commercial Studies, plays including” My Fair Lady”, learning the piano, Maths and English. (Maths still haunts me!) I disliked running for obvious reasons but sports days were great and competitive.

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