Damian Kelly started his journey into nursing at Maryborough Base Hospital which is located in a quiet but historic town of 25,000 people. He was 20-years-old and he says the decision to become a nurse was all about timing; he didn’t know where Maryborough was or what nursing might entail but a friend referred him to an advert for student nurses placed in the local newspaper.

Damian explains that the hospital serviced the Wide Bay area of Queensland from Gympie to Bundaberg, and from Hervey Bay to inland to Kingaroy. “Country hospitals, before flight transportation, saw everything from terrible car and domestic accidents and gun injuries to some really complex surgery, lots of strokes and heart attacks plus cancer treatments,” he says. “The work was great fun but very hard with long hours and lots of night duty and probably way too much responsibility for us at our skill levels, however positively we rose to the level of expectation!”     

At the time, Damian says that he made friends quickly and that these relationships were supportive. “It was highly social,” he says. He also enjoyed living in a smaller centre and being close to the environment, referring to the sugar cane fields and the citrus orchards where he would ride his bicycle. But there were challenges too. “The hierarchy was very strict, authoritarian and often cruel,” he says. “I learnt most of my management skills from not following their leadership styles.” There was also prejudice as there weren’t many male nurses at the time, he explains, “which could work for or against you.”

Damian worked at Royal Brisbane Hospital for many years and during that time also completed a degree in Art History at the University of Queensland. Happenstance was how he began working in aged care; after a four-month agency job in Coronary Care at Royal Prince Alfred hospital in Sydney in 2003 he moved to Wagga Wagga to commence a job in that City Council. Needing some additional funds he looked for a casual RN role at the Wagga Wagga Base Hospital. They did not employ staff one day per week but they contacted the local Mary Potter Nursing Home. Damian went for an interview was offered a part-time job. “I commenced the next weekend and worked every second weekend for three years”.   Enjoying this work very much and while still working at Mary Potter he completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Aged Care. 

Today, Damian is the Centre Manager at Burrangiri Aged Care Respite Centre in Canberra.  He has happily settled into living in the ACT since moving from Wagga Wagga and, now happily married, plans to stay. He has worked within this branch of The Salvation Army and at Burrangiri for more than four years now. "I very much enjoy the marriage of aged care complete with its mix of dementia, chronic and acute aged care as well as determining discharge plans for, on average, 28 residents each month. He is proud to work within the frameworks of the TSAs famous religion and social justice ethos. “It is a seamless union of care and ethics which is very easy to work into everything we do here with an aged and vulnerable population.”

His biggest inspiration is good leadership or a good leader. “Leadership needs to lead by example and have a strong underpinning confidence in the staff. We can do what is being asked but we need to be supported to get there.” It’s all about teamwork and having workable systems in place, he explains. “None of us like being told what to do or what to think so, decisive and direct leadership, which is not nasty or destructive but rather seeks to support change and development through creative and organised processes, is ideal.”