International Women’s Day: A celebration of Aussies working their magic amid COVID-19

Di Medhurst feels proud of the sacrifices she made during the coronavirus pandemic.

By wearing PPE and following strict social distancing rules at all times, she has kept her family, colleagues and Australia’s most vulnerable safe from the virus.

Ms Medhurst, 52, is just one of the hard-working essential workers who spoke to The New Daily before International Women’s Day.

From nurses and teachers, to charity volunteers and aged-care workers, women in female-dominated industries across Australia have played a critical role during the pandemic.

Ms Medhurst is an aged-care worker at Holloway Aged Care in Keilor East, Melbourne.

Aged-care worker Di Medhurst wearing PPE. Photo: Di Medhurst

During Victoria’s second wave of infections, when COVID-19 began ripping through nursing homes and killing residents, she said one of her biggest fears was unknowingly bringing the virus into her home or workplace.

“Even though we were in lockdown, a lot of people went straight from work to home to avoid spreading it or potentially picking it up,” she told The New Daily.

“Personally, I’m proud to say that I’ve had many, many COVID tests and not one has been positive.

“I’m proud that I’ve kept my family safe and my residents safe from catching it from me.”

Ms Medhurst said she was drawn to aged care because she wanted to help elderly Australians “enjoy the time they have left”.

“It’s like a role reversal. Our parents looked after us, and now we’re looking after our parents,” she said.

Di Medhurst said she was proud of her nursing home’s handling of the virus. Photo: Di Medhurst

Her advice to young women entering the industry?

“Be proud of what you’re doing,” she said.

“Women are natural nurturers. It’s just in our DNA, I believe. It’s who we are.”

Zubaida Alrubai, 26, is a high school maths teacher from Western Sydney and renewable energy campaigner for the Sydney Alliance’s Voices for Power initiative.

Like most teachers during the height of the pandemic, she had to drop everything and quickly help her students master remote learning.

Zubaida Alrubai is working hard to protect the future of Australian students by drawing attention to climate issues. Photo: Zubaida Alrubai

Passionate about education and climate action, Ms Alrubai said “having young women in leadership positions is essential for the next generation to feel inspired”.

“I’m very passionate about mathematics,” she said, adding it was important to help young women fall in love with STEM subjects.

“We need to be very encouraging of women and young girls, and to teach them that leadership isn’t a masculine trait – it comes in many different roles and everyone can be a leader.”

Tash Lade, 28, is a Melbourne-born physiotherapist who specialises in intensive care and respiratory management.

Since the pandemic began, she has been working around the clock helping coronavirus patients recover at a hospital in London, UK.

Tash Lade (left) in full PPE at a London hospital. Photo: Tash Lade

“It felt overwhelming at times, like there was no end to the constant flow of patients and ever-increasing case numbers,” she said.

“It was rewarding, though. In my role, I felt I was genuinely making a difference and contributing to fighting the pandemic.”

Ms Lade said female leadership was “integral in physiotherapy and health care”.

“Women provide insight and advocacy for patients cohorts that may not always be able to advocate for themselves,” she said.

Millie Holden, also 28, is a primary school teacher in Melbourne – where Australians endured the nation’s longest and strictest coronavirus lockdown.

“Being on the screen for almost three hours a day meant that teachers had to stay energetic, creative, interesting and positive,” she said.

“In addition to (running remote classes on) Zoom, we were also supporting parents with learning tasks across the curriculum for students to complete at home in their own time.”

Primary school teacher Millie Holden embraced online learning during the pandemic. Photo: Millie Holden

Ms Holden said Melbourne’s second wave revealed how important human connection and community was for children.

“When we arrived back to school after lockdown 2.0, the kids ran through the gates and cuddled everyone,” she said.

“It was the best.”

Melissa Walton is the Victorian vice-president for St Vincent de Paul Society’s soup vans.

Before the pandemic hit, she volunteered at the charity twice a week, making sandwiches and preparing hot soup for people experiencing homelessness.

During Melbourne’s lockdown, Melissa Walton had to work even harder to get food to people in need. Photo: Melissa Walton

COVID-19 brought an new demand for goods and services, and Ms Walton now volunteers most days each week, co-ordinating more than 200 volunteers packing and distributing hampers with essential items to people in need.

Her advice to young women is to get involved.

“It makes you a much more rounded person,” she said.

“It’s a great way to develop yourself and get a better understanding of life and yourself and other people and how we all live together.”

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