Excellence awards

The Northern Territory Nursing and Midwifery Excellence Awards recognise and celebrate the outstanding efforts of nurses and midwives who are exemplars in their profession, and who make a difference to the health and wellbeing of Territorians on a daily basis.

There are 10 award categories which are open to enrolled nurses, Registered Nurses and Midwives working in any healthcare setting. These awards recognise excellence in client care, education, research, professional leadership and commitment to the nursing and midwifery profession in the Territory. For the first time, there are individual award categories for Nurse of the Year and Midwife of the Year, instead of this previously being one combined award.

Congratulations to this year’s recipients

Announcing recipients for The Nursing and Midwifery Federation Australia Northern Territory: Nursing and Midwifery Excellence Awards.

The Nursing and Midwifery Excellence Awards Gala Dinner was held on Saturday 14 May in Darwin to announce the 2022 winners.

Joyce Akong - Graduate Registered Nurse, Intensive Care Unit, Royal Darwin Hospital

Joyce has the potential to be, not only an exceptional nurse but a true leader in the nursing profession. She is calm, capable and takes pride in all aspects of her patient care. She shows initiative, is thorough and has a high attention to detail; delivering consistently excellent patient- centred care.

Through trying circumstances, Joyce treats her patients with professionalism, dignity and respect. She ensures the core principles of good care are implemented in her work and endeavours to maintain a high level of safety for all in the workplace.

Conscientious, thoughtful and empathetic are additional descriptors that spring to mind from her colleagues. Joyce has a knack for communicating with people from all walks of life, whether they be patients or colleagues.

Joyce has been a positive influence on the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) workplace culture. She has modelled both ingenuity and advocacy in the short time she has been with us.

Congratulations Joyce, what a great achievement.

Lauren Roberts - Paediatric Nurse Educator, Royal Darwin Hospital

Lauren is the only nurse in the Northern Territory to be credentialed as an official children and young people’s nurse.  She has led the restructuring of the paediatric nursing education program, has been a driving force behind the new paediatric orientation package for new staff, the Paediatric Graduate Nurse Workshop program and is the point of call for any paediatric nursing questions from all over the Northern Territory.

Lauren has shown dedication to the program from the beginning, putting in many hours of her time to ensure the service became embedded within the paediatric education program.

Lauren also helped with setting up the COVID of concern program and largely contributed to the care of paediatric patients in the program. Lauren is a caring and compassionate nurse educator and is always willing to provide education to staff, patients and families. She is passionate about paediatric pain management and presents at the pain management course at Royal Darwin Hospital throughout the year. Lauren has also implemented virtual reality and the buzzy bee to improve patients’ experiences in the hospital and make procedures for paediatric patients as painless as possible.

She is a paediatric point of contact in the NT and is appreciated by staff and families. Lauren is approachable and non-judgemental, putting patient care first and sees education as central to ensuring patient safety.

It is clear you have made an incredible impact on your colleagues, congratulations and thank you for all you do.

Paula Vandokkum - Clinical Midwifery Specialist, Research Nurse, Maternity Unit Alice Springs Hospital and Menzies School of Health Research

Paula graduated with a Bachelor of Nursing and Midwifery in 2002 and commenced work at the Maternity Unit of Alice Springs Hospital in 2005. She was a founding member of the innovative multidisciplinary Diabetes and Antenatal Care and Education (DANCE) clinic based at the Alice Springs Hospital. This clinic coordinates the complex antenatal care of women in Central Australia with diabetes during their pregnancy.

She completed a graduate certificate in diabetes education in 2014 and is currently undertaking a Masters’ studies in health research. Paula has worked between the Alice Springs Hospital Maternity Unit, the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute and the  Menzies School of Health Research, for over a decade. Paula is ideally placed to be a midwife researcher for the Diabetes in Pregnancy Partnership.

Paula's contribution to the Pregnancy and Neonatal Diabetes Outcomes in Remote Australia (PANDORA) project comprised of recruitment and data collecting from women with diabetes during pregnancy. The results of the study after five years have already shown that diabetes in pregnancy has a significant influence on both the mother and the child.

Paula was also pivotal in the Central Australian contribution to the Territory-wide establishment and maintenance of the Diabetes in Pregnancy Clinical Register which allows health practitioners looking after women with diabetes in pregnancy access to up-to-date information regarding their care.

Congratulations Paula!

Josie Curr - NT Health Commander, COVID-19 Public Health Coordination, NT Health

Josie is a passionate leader with a proven track record of achievement in service redesign and leading multi-disciplinary teams through complex periods of change; driving innovation and improvements that benefit our community and its people.

Josie demonstrates true adaptability and passion for leadership in delivering health care to our most vulnerable populations throughout her nursing career. Josie fosters leadership qualities and knowledge amongst her team, consistently striving for improvements to practice, challenging the status quo and advocating for professional and personal growth whilst encouraging staff development opportunities.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Josie has been consistent in maintaining high levels of professionalism throughout extremely trying times, leading the health response and navigating the Territory through the COVID-19 pandemic in her role as NT Health Commander within the Territory Emergency Operation Centre.

Josie is an outstanding leader within the Northern Territory health service and a great advocate for the health and wellbeing of all Territorians.

Peter Gazey - Primary Health Service Manager, Binjari Clinic - Wurli-Wurlinjang Health Service

When COVID-19 hit the community of Binjari, it was a very unprecedented worrying time for community members. Many families were confirmed positive for COVID-19 and were required to travel to the Centre of National Resilience in Howard Springs to undertake quarantine. Peter, being a nurse for a long time in Binjari, went out of his way to ensure community members felt supported and not alone.

During the lockdowns at Binjari, Peter and the clinic staff endeavoured to ensure community member’s wellbeing by providing COVID-19 information in plain English so community members were informed and had an understanding of what was happening.

Peter has been recognised for his efforts by the Chief Minister for his work to support the Binjari community and relieve the stress of managing the outbreak.

While working as a clinic nurse in Binjari, Peter built great relationships and became a  positive influence and role model to many  people. He had a huge impact on two brothers in the community, who were inspired by Peter to undertake  studies to become Aboriginal Health Practitioners.

Peter is always supportive and willing to share his skills and knowledge.  He continues to support the Binjari community even though he has moved on to a leadership position in Katherine  with Wurli-Wurlinjang Aboriginal Health Service.

Congratulations Peter!

Alan Walker Cancer Centre - Royal Darwin Hospital

The Alan Walker Cancer team consistently receives praise from patients and families expressing  gratitude for the professional and empathetic service they receive.  The team works together to ensure they can provide seamless patient-centred, holistic cancer care.

The team provides education and support to patients and families on treatments and protocols and works to empower patients in their treatment.

The team have a reputation for making their patients feel secure and happy, celebrating milestones and endeavouring to make the experience as positive as possible.

The team at Alan Walker Cancer Centre go above and beyond to make sure patients and family members feel confident in their treatment plans. They take the time to educate and support family members who live in remote areas to assist them to care for their loved ones.

The Alan Walker Cancer Centre provides a safe space that allows families to express their concerns, provide advice, and alleviate anxiety. The staff at Alan Walker Cancer Care Centre treat their patients with a great deal of care, concern and empathy.

Norelena Walsh -  Child Health Nurse, Palmerston Health Precinct Building Complex Community Care Centre, NT Health

Norelena makes her patients feel supported and listens to their anxieties and concerns. She has exceptional experience in providing educational information on early parenthood for mothers.

Norelena creates a positive environment to support mothers in their early pregnancy. She is known to go above and beyond in providing a supportive environment by linking her patients into parenting groups and connecting them with organisations that can assist in supporting women throughout pregnancy.

Norelena has provided support to many patients by instilling confidence and reassurance, making community members feel safe and secure to enter the hospital system, particularly in high risk pregnancies.

Thank you Norelena!

Josie Curr - NT Health Commander, COVID-19 Public Health Coordination, NT Health

Josie is a proud Territorian committed to a lifetime of service and contribution to healthcare. Josie has a nursing career spanning more than  30 years across the Northern Territory, of which the last 15 years have been within senior leadership and executive roles.

Some highlights from Josie’s lasting contribution to nursing within the Northern Territory include:

  • Developing the NT Health Business Planning Framework within her role of Deputy Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer
  • Managing the impact of two seismic code yellows including  a community evacuation due to cyclone activity and managing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic whilst acting as the General Manager East Arnhem Region Top End Health Service
  • Establishing and leading the Ambulatory Care clinical stream as the Director of Ambulatory Care Royal Darwin and Palmerston Hospitals
  • A member of the commissioning team of the Palmerston Regional Hospital as the Nursing Director Operations, Palmerston Regional Hospital
  • The development and implementation of a fully integrated maternity service as the Director of Integrated Maternity Services Top End
  • Leading the inaugural Baby Friendly Health Initiative (BFHI) accreditation as the Project Lead Lactation Consultant within Royal Darwin Hospital
  • Being an influential member of the Northern Territory Primary Health Network Women’s Health Redesign Working Group that  achieved the implementation of medical abortion services into the health service and general practice.

Throughout her extensive nursing career, Josie has exhibited great versatility and a love for providing health care to all Territorians. Josie is very deserving of this award for her dedication and ongoing commitment to the profession, to patients and the community.

Mark Di Francesco - Registered Nurse, Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, Danila Dilba Health Service

Mark Di Francesco is a well-established Territory Nurse, having worked in various positions across the NT Government and Aboriginal Medical Sector since 1989.

Mark has trained and mentored students and nurses in all stages of their career, and has passed on his extensive cultural knowledge to fellow clinicians to ensure culturally safe and appropriate care for Indigenous Territorians.

After six years in management and executive roles, Mark moved to the Danila Dilba Health Service in 2018. During his two years working for the service at the Rapid Creek Clinic he became a familiar and comforting face for many patients with complex chronic conditions.

In July 2020, Mark took on his biggest professional challenge - establishing the Danila Dilba Clinic within the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre. Utilising his skills and experience, the Don Dale Clinic  is thriving.  Mark's personal and professional attributes have assisted to  make the Clinic successful, priding Danila Dilba as the "first Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation to provide primary health care in a youth detention setting in Australia". Mark ensures every young person at the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre is seen and heard.

Mark has created and fostered an environment where young people know they can trust him and the Clinic. When not at the clinic, Mark also works to address legal and court requests, partaking in case conferences and planning meetings, ensuring young people released from detention receive follow up care with external primary health care providers.

Mark has been a game-changer for young people who attend the Don Dale Youth Detention Centre, and has been instrumental in improving  health outcomes for young people.

Mark  is a gift to the Territory and  a lifeline to  young people;  breaking bias and stigmas. Thank you Mark for all of your work  caring for young people.

Katy Hoyle - Clinical Midwifery Educator, Women, Children and Youth Division, Royal Darwin Hospital

Katy Hoyle is an outstanding Midwife for Northern Territory using her  clinical ability  to conduct herself with integrity and ensure the highest standard of maternity care for Territorians. Her colleagues describe her as  a positive influence  to workplace culture as she can build strong relationships with ease and  lights up the ward with her presence.

Katy e has been a midwife in the Territory for more than  10 years and specialises in homebirths. She recently had the honour of being present at her 500th homebirth, and has helped to deliver babies in some unusual places over the years including tents, fields and communes.

Katy has been a clinical midwifery educator at the Royal Darwin Hospital since 2015, co-ordinating the graduate midwife programme, which includes recruiting graduate midwives and mentoring them in all aspects of midwifery until they acquire the confidence to  transfer to practise.

Thank you!

Thank you to those who took the time to nominate colleagues and peers, and also to our valued award sponsors.

  • Nursing and Midwifery Federation Australia
  • National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre
  • Flinders University
  • Charles Darwin University
  • Fox Education & Consultancy
  • CRANAplus
  • Hesta
  • Darwin Private Hospital
  • Halikos
  • EASA Support
  • Nurse & Midwife Support

NT Health is incredibly proud of the achievements of all nominees, finalists and award recipients and looks forward to celebrating the excellent work of our nurses and midwives in future years.

Congratulations to all recipients and thank you for your tireless work to improve the health and wellbeing of Territorians.

*Position titles reflect the finalists role at the time of nomination


For all enquiries, email nursing and midwifery in the Northern Territory at NursingMidwifery.doh@nt.gov.au or by calling 1800 000 648.

Last updated: 16 August 2022

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