Kate Middleton has surprised a group of Queensland nurses with a video call from the UK to thank them for their efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gidgee Healing, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island health service that covers an area of more than 640,000 km2, were asked last Friday to join a video call on the Monday to mark International Nurses’ Day.
But they did not realise it would be with members of the Royal family.
“We thought we were just doing an interview with the International Council of Nursing,” CEO of Gidgee Healing and registered nurse Renee Blackman told HuffPost Australia.
“Then they broke the news to me that it would be with the Royal family and that was the shock,”
“We were so nervous.”
In a Royal-first, the Duchess of Cambridge, Queen Elizabeth and other senior members of Britain’s Royal family joined a group Zoom on Tuesday to thank nurses in Britain, Australia, India, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Bahamas, Cyprus, and Tanzania.
The Duchess was joined by Sophie, the Countess of Wessex on the call to Mount Isa and asked “what it was like on the ground” fighting the pandemic.
“It’s been as hectic as it’s been around the world,” Blackman told Middleton on the Zoom call.
“But we are feeling the love,” nurse Tahnia-Maree Ah Kit, who works at Mount Isa Hospital’s emergency department, added.
Blackman, a Gubbi Gubbi woman from the Sunshine Coast, told HuffPost that royal advisers gave a thorough briefing before the official call, including a run-down on Royal protocols.
“We asked what’s the protocol here, how do we address them,” Blackman explained.
“But (the call) was so relaxed, we almost forgot to call them Your Royal Highness or ’Ma’am.”
Blackman said the chat was a great opportunity to showcase the hard work of Indigenous health care workers, especially in remote areas.
Gidgee Healing has been incredibly busy working to keep coronavirus away from communities in Queensland’s north. Indigenous Australians have been told they are extremely vulnerable to COVID-19 due to underlying health issues such as diabetes, rheumatic heart disease and kidney disease, conditions they’ve been forced to battle since colonisation.
“Geography is our friend this time, usually it isn’t when it comes to accessibility,” she said.
“If it gets into our communities it has the chance to devastate and decimate.”
Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services across Australia have been one step ahead of protecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities from the virus with strong messaging, education and preparation.
“People now understand how to take precautions and how to be cautious,” Blackman said.
So What’s Kate Really Like?
Blackman said the Duchess was genuinely concerned and interested in what’s happening in remote Australian communities.
“She was absolutely personable. Really easy to talk to. No pretense whatsoever,” she said.
“It felt like a very personal conversation.”
Blackman said she isn’t a monarchist but is very interested in the Royal family.
“My grandmother used to read lots and lots of books about the Royals,” she said.
“They’re so intriguing.”
From the Zoom call and the attention the video is getting, it seems Middleton is just as intrigued in how Indigenous health care workers have dealt with the pandemic.
“You’re a huge inspiration to everybody. A huge thank you from us all here,” the Duchess of Cambridge said on the call.
Check out the full video below.