Karan Smith

inducted 2011 Health

About Karan Smith

"My years of experience in Pakistan made it very clear that education is a key to any development, anywhere."

After completing what was HSC in 1976 at St Ann's College, Karan commenced General Nurse training close to home at Warrnambool and District Base Hospital in 1977 and on completion of training stayed on at the Base to do a Staffing Year, which was at this time considered to be a privilege and held much weight for future career prospects. After completing the year Karan travelled to Perth to undertake Midwifery training at St John of God Hospital Subiaco. St John's, at the time, was considered to be one of the best training schools for Midwives in the country. "Little did I know that my decision to go to Perth would be the beginning of what was to become an adventurous and diverse career in Health Care, Community Development and Education. "

During Midwifery training Karan came to know that the Sisters had recently gone to Pakistan to work in a TB Hospital in Sialkot, Pakistan. "With an abundance of enthusiasm and not a great deal of knowledge of this part of the world, I along with another nurse I had studied with, asked the Sisters if they would consider us as volunteers for a year - to our surprise the Sisters responded positively to our offer and within a few months we were off to Pakistan. This was an exciting opportunity because I had always wanted to use my Nursing skills to help people in need - however I was to quickly learn that I was to receive more than I was giving. This was the beginning of my deep interest in other cultures and development work." During this time Karan worked in the general medical ward and had the opportunity to use her midwifery skills to establish ante-natal clinics and work with traditional midwives to improve their skills.

"This 18 months in Pakistan in the early 1980's was a life changing experience which led me to join the Sister's of St John of God, where I had the privilege to work with Indigenous people in some of the most remote parts of Australia and then to spend a further 13 years working in Pakistan where I was engaged in adult education and community development projects which were focused on capacity building."

By the mid 1990's Karan had completed a Bachelors Degree in Education and Theology at Murdoch University WA and a Masters Degree in Leadership from All Hallows College, Dublin Ireland which, along with her foundational studies in nursing prepared her well to work in a developing context. While she continued to be involved in health projects the main focus of her work was in education. "Working with young adults, I was in a position where I could provide the opportunity for students to achieve their goals, whether it was through teaching or my position as Director of the program being able to recruit the best teachers possible, or arranging funding to bring in teachers from other countries to conduct workshops. My years of experience in Pakistan made it very clear that education is a key to any development, anywhere."

On returning to Australia in the mid 2000's Karan's journey continued, no longer a Sister however her work focus had changed little. "I had been blessed with many years of being engaged in ‘meaningful' work which made a ‘difference' to people's lives - finding this place after returning from Pakistan took some time however it did not take long for it to emerge that people with mental illness were the people on the margins of our society."

In 2006 Karan commenced work at St John of God Pinelodge Clinic, a psychiatric hospital which also specialises in the treatment of drug and alcohol addictions. Karan's current role is as Director of Mission and Coordinator of Learning and Organisational Development. "My current role enables me to have the best of all worlds engaging me in health care and service and organisational development."