Denise Petersen

Denise Petersen (McCallum) was born in Jamestown in 1949, and lived in Caltowie, a small town near the grain belt of South Australia.

She now lives in Cairns with her husband and adult children. She still works happily at the Cairns Hospital.

As a child in the 1950s Denise was asked many times, “What would you like to be when you grow up?” Aunty Mavis, her mother’s sister, was a much-traveled nurse, who would chat extensively about her great adventures traveling overseas and her many stories of nursing experiences. Denise always answered she wanted to be “A nurse like Aunty Mavis”. The family moved to Port Augusta. After a difficult time in school due to her dyslexia, Denise commenced nursing training at the Port Augusta General Hospital in 1966.
This began her journey with nursing, from the fun days of training, where we learned compassion and camaraderie, to the hard work of a nurse’s life. This led to Midwifery training, remote nursing out on the Nullarbor Plains of Australia, and patrol work and home Midwifery in Papua New Guinea.

After twenty years in Papua New Guinea, Denise returned to Australia and settled in Cairns, Queensland, Australia, with her family. She continued to expand her nursing career at the Cairns Base Hospital, working up to a Level 2 position in Paediatric Units, higher duties in Nurse Management positions and finally settling as the Regional Case Manager for Children with Cancer. She was always eager to pass her knowledge and experiences down to younger nurses, with many “tricks of the trade” of nursing. Her story incorporates her many travels and experiences of living in Papua New Guinea, her family, and ocean sailing on the yacht, Vitiaz.

Denise had often thought of recording Aunty Mavis’s many nursing adventures. Sadly, by the time an opportunity for this arose, her aunt had dementia, and her stories were lost forever. This encouraged Denise to write about her own nursing career and travel experiences, in memory of her aunt’s life.

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