September 23 - 29, 2012: Issue 77       

Karen Draddy. Photo by Michael Mannington. 

Pittwater Women of the Year: Eileen Gordon (2010 ), Karen Draddy (2005)  and longest serving Mayor for Pittwater, Cr. Patricia Giles (2012).

Brookvale, Old Pittwater Road, c.1950. Courtesy Sempre Con Te

Mona Vale Hospital and sixth floor. 
Mona Vale Beach pre-dawn. 
Dee Why Pool. Photo by Michael Mannington.
Karen, Eileen and Waverney of Mona Vale Hospital Auxiliary. Photo by M Mannington

 Karen Draddy

One of the bubbliest, most warm hearted, generous and high energy ladies we’ve been fortunate to meet is Karen Draddy. Karen was International Woman of the Year for Pittwater in 2005, recognising her support of new mums and her staff of midwives, was made a Life Member of the Nursing and Midwifery Unit Manager Society of NSW in 2002 and was State President twice.  She will be stepping down from the Executive as Vice President at the AGM in October. Recently Karen was given Life Membership of the NSW Nurse Association. Other hours involved in Soroptimists International, an organisation that advocates for women at the United Nations, represent a small drop of a huge passion of ensuring all women’s rights are recognised and maintained. 

Last weekend Karen attended a Nursing and Midwifery Leaders forum with the Senior Nurse and Midwifery Managers for NSW. This lady also sits on Tribunals as a Nursing and Midwifery Consultant for the Nurses and Midwives Board of NSW and finishes her 2012 year by sitting on a three person panel for the masters in Nursing Student at Sydney University where she will get grilled for two hours on leadership.

Karen’s dedication to our community, to women and children, among those who fought to have Maternity Services returned to Mona Vale Hospital, where her role as the woman in charge of maternity services at Mona Vale ran for 28 years, is incalculable. This week we celebrate another wonderful Pittwater woman in gaining a small insight into one of our most respected and loved assets…

My parents moved to Dee Why in 1949, having grown up in the same street in Lane Cove only a few houses apart and both were from fairly large families, my mum the middle of 9 and my dad the eldest of 5. I am an only child, born in 1951, sadly their only surviving baby but cherished and loved and growing up in a home where there was almost one or another relative living or staying with us. I sometimes think I talk a little fast as our house was always full of conversation and both my parents were readers and involved in local RSL and other Community Groups.

One of my earliest memories is being minded by my grandmother at around 3 years, while she sat in the front garden for the Mater Hospital Crows Nest running the stall there, while she rolled bandages. I could never understand why there were so many beautiful things for babies, shaving gear for men and toiletries but at the other end of the table there were potatoes and onions. On reflection is was probably a sign of the times but it put me around hospitals at an early age and hence I always wanted to be a Nurse.  

I went to Brookvale Public School and it was here from my very first day that I made life long friends with Ornella Tomaino, Bev Jones and Vicki Foley. I walked to School through Brookvale oval with kids from Schackle Avenue and Pine Ave every day; we were a group of different ages but usually 6 or 7 of us. I remember the day Graham Thorn was kidnapped because my Mum turned up at school to walk all the kids home, I was so embarrassed as I was a big girl and able to walk with the big kids. My parents were mindful and did not want me growing up spoiled so they sent me to every thing they could afford, and made sure I understood sharing as well. I went to Girls Brigade at Narraweena, Ballet for 10 years at Balgowlah, Tennis lessons for a couple of years until they finally came to terms that I was no athlete. I loved primary school and as a child of the fifties it was a golden time for us all.

I went to Manly Girls High School, we were the first of the first years when the school opened. I continued my friendships with my friends from Brookvale and added Sue Green and Lynn Smith and all theses years later the 6 of us meet every 6 to 8 weeks for dinner or lunch. To have women this long in ones life is a true gift. During high school riding push bikes to the beach or Manly as a group of kids was not unusual and we made our own fun with swimming or movies etc.  I have travelled overseas several times and I was very lucky in the experiences and opportunities I have had during my career.

What are the main changes you have noticed in the Brookvale -Manly - Dee Why area since the 1950's?

Traffic – We used to be able to walk to school as a group of kids and ride pushbikes into Manly on Saturday afternoons as teenagers to see a movie. We could walk to the beach, but there was only one ice-cream shop but it had 3 flavours.

Where did you train as a nurse ?

I attended my General Nursing Certificate at Gosford Hospital as my parents had purchased a holiday home at Tuggerawong which they later retired to.

What area of nursing did you focus on working in during your career?

I did not remain in Nursing and as Gosford had no Midwifery training in 1973, I came to Auburn with several other trainees under a scheme that saw the class made up of Gosford, Auburn and Goulburn students and it was a great training.

You have taken on many other roles related to health and health services; what was the impetus for this?

Advocacy, I was very self-aware that I could talk to anyone, anywhere and it was my mother’s influence following her statement to me at the kitchen sink “ you are just like your father” at 22yrs,  when I was complaining that I was always the one speaking out at meetings. She told me my gift was I could talk to anyone and that I must use it for good and speak up for those who can’t, and so I have always tried to do so. She also told me to be truthful and again I have tried always to be so with my professional and private life.

What was the first extra role you took on?

I have been on so many committees, panels, forums, working parties etc. all my working life. But the first one was on the Gosford Hospital Senior Nurse Ball Committee for 2 years. In those days we had balls at the Gosford Leagues Club for over 600 people, it was fun and always a successful night and tickets cost $2.00, we made 20 cents a head, we thought we were terrific to make a profit.

What do you feel is your greatest achievement as a person?

Professionally never having lost a mother on my watch, working with and having so many fabulous midwives, nurses, doctors, auxiliary staff, mothers and families come through my life. Personally the family, friends and supporters I have in my life, I am very lucky.

You are also very active in the Mona Vale Hospital Auxiliary and its current Vice President. Why is the MVHA so important to and for the community?

It is the heart of the community in the hospital, many staff will come, work, leave or retire like me but the Auxiliary is the constant, raising funds and ensuring services are supported.

If you could be another creature for a day, furred, finned or feathered, what would you be and what would you do for that day?

I would love to say a whale or dolphin as I love the water but in truth I feel I would be a cat with personality, and I would meander around the neighbourhood bring  joy and cheer but mostly picking up the amazing “morsels “ from all I come in contact with, scrumptious.

What is your favourite place/s in Pittwater and why?

I have a few, the view from Level 6 at the hospital at sunrise, Brookvale oval as I walked through it to go to school every day and dad and I watched Sea Eagles together. Lastly the top step of DY Baths as it was where I learned to swim with Mrs Smith in 1955 and because the beauty of the view restores the soul.

What is your 'motto for life' or a favourite phrase you try to live by?

1-See a job and do it and 2- Don’t go home till the jobs done.

I would like to thank the community for all the support they have given me personally as the N&M Unit Manager for Maternity Services during my 28 year tenure and as the Complaints Manager for the last 18 months. I would like to thank the community for all the support they give to the hospital, the staff, patients and auxiliary. Lastly I would like to thank my own amazing staff and the staff throughout the hospital who come to work every day and give such important, skilled and necessary care to one and all.

Copyright Karen Draddy, 2012.  All Rights Reserved.