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Studio portrait photograph of Anne Carey.

Medical warrior
2016 Australian of the Year | Western Australia

Anne's story

A nurse, midwife and medical warrior, Anne Carey has spent her life helping others – even when it has been at great personal risk. Anne has provided health care for remote communities in hospitals and clinics across Papua New Guinea, Northern Territory and Western Australia.

As an Australian Red Cross aid worker in some of the world’s hotspots including Sudan, Kenya and most recently Sierra Leone, Anne has an impact on everyone she meets.

During her time in Sudan, Anne and her colleagues came under attack, but while others left, they courageously stayed behind to help the local residents.

In Sierra Leone she spent three assignments battling on the frontline against the deadly Ebola virus and was among the first volunteers to assist. Every day she was taped into a personal protection suit, and while she might have looked inhuman in her all-white sterilised suit, thick rubber gloves and perspex goggles, Anne extended humanity with a simple touch and professional care that helped people understand they were not alone.

Despite the death, fear and despair felt during the Ebola outbreak, Anne was a beacon of hope and continues the desperate fight to save the lives of people most in need.

Anne's sun hat and marker pen

Anne Carey wore this sun hat while working as an Australian Red Cross nurse at Kenema, Sierra Leone. When Anne was not caring for patients in the high risk areas she wore this hat to protect her from the sun and extreme heat of West Africa.

The nurses used green or black marker pens like this to write their names on the front of the protective suits worn inside the quarantine zones.


Sun hat and marker pen from Anne Carey

Baby Bella was separated from her mother who had contracted Ebola. Miraculously, Bella did not contract the disease

Testing conditions

The sun is so brutal in Sierra Leone and my skin is fair. I wore this hat all the time in the daytime when not dressed in an Ebola spacesuit. Temperatures were in the 40 degrees and humidity was very high.

Losing your identity

Personal Protective Equipment reduced everyone to an identical appearance. The only thing that gave you back your personal identity was the green ink of your name across your forehead. The name reminded patients we were individual humans although we may have looked like aliens.

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