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Jo Rees


I was not a brilliant student by any means and left after completing my Junior Certificate at the age of 15. I had always wanted to be a nurse, but by 15 I just wanted to go out and earn some money. So I went off to Business College and got a job. I had been working for a doctor for about one year when I realised that I really did still want to be a nurse.

I attended night school and studied nursing. I trained at Royal Perth Hospital. After I had completed my training I went overseas and took a position with St Mary’s Hospital in London for two years. I travelled to Berlin and lived there for seven years. The wall was still very much a part of Berlin in those days.

I have been working in the area of youth health for the past 24 years and have worked with young people across the board. In schools, out of schools, young people in Juvenile Justice – Longmore, Riverbank and Banksia Hill – including young Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

I was involved in writing a programme for young Aboriginal people called ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ and went to the Kimberley for one year, going out to remote communities. That was a truly amazing experience.

In 2005 I took the ‘Let’s Talk About Sex’ programme to Ethiopia. Ansell provided 1,000 free condoms, plus eight anatomically-correct models to demonstrate correct condom usage. I bet the airport X-ray technicians had a giggle.

During my stay I worked with over 200 young people who adored the course. The programme is now in its sixth year. I have now made up a training manual and employed two local Ethiopian women to run the course along with some incredible young peer educators who go to schools and deliver the workshop to their peers.

I also started a home for children who had been orphaned by AIDS in Babile, 600 kilometres from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

I am now the clinical Nurse Specialist for the Youth Sexual Health and Wellbeing program at South Metropolitan Public Health Unit. I feel it is an absolute privilege to work with young people.




21 October 2015