The big capital cities in the south were not alone and in Cairns and the rest of Far North Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people were also demanding our own services.
It was during these turbulent times that Rose Richards, an Aboriginal Welfare Officer with Cairns Base Hospital, watched as high numbers of sick Aboriginal children came to Cairns for treatment.
After often long periods of hospitalisation these children were discharged and returned to their communities where follow-up treatment was inadequate or impossible, causing patients to become sick and return to Cairns time and time again.
Pregnant women from Cape York and the Torres Strait had to come to Cairns at 34 weeks of gestation and stay in hospital until giving birth six weeks later. Cairns Base Hospital was not a friendly or respectful place for Aboriginal women and so slowly, Rose Richards began taking these patients into her own home, with good results as the children and their mothers responded to her care.
Auntie Rose Richards became convinced that a safe accommodation place, run appropriately and respecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural protocols, was urgently needed.
Together with Mick Miller and her brother Clarrie Grogan, Rose fought for funding for a half-way-house to accommodate these mums and bubs from remote communities.
In 1983 funding was finally approved and the Half-Way-House began operations, firstly in McLeod Street and then relocated to Trinity Park where it became known as ‘Rosie’s Farm’.
More advocacy by Auntie Rosie and her supporters led to more funds and the establishment of a permanent residence at Earlville before another move in 2010 to our current much larger custom-designed premises in Edmonton.
Today, Mookai Rosie continues to flourish as Far North Queensland’s only Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s accommodation service run and staffed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander women.
As CEO Theresa Simpson wrote for our thirtieth anniversary celebrations, “Without Auntie Rosie and her fellow Aboriginal health rights pioneers Mookai Rosie would not exist; Auntie Rosie we thank you from the bottom of our hearts!”.