‘I would like to think I am of value. Anyone can be a school nurse, but it is what you make it. You can make it Panadol and band-aids or you can seriously look at it and say … it’s about being of value and being able to competently meet situations that will arise in the school.’ – Lennie Fester
One of the defining features of our close-knit community is the enormous contribution made by our very dedicated staff. Notable amongst this group of professionals is Westbourne’s revered nurse, Lennie Fester.
After almost four decades, Lennie will be retiring at the end of this term. Hugely respected for her medical expertise, and care for students, staff and the extended Westbourne community, Lennie’s connection with the school began in 1978 when her young son Marty, was enrolled in Grade 5. At the time she was working as a nurse practitioner for a group of eight doctors in Altona and very involved with the Mothers’ Club.
Three years later John Pascoe offered her a job. However, when interviewed in 2011 for our sesquicentenary history project, Lennie described her early years at Westbourne as somewhat more varied than she had expected:
Although I was the school nurse, at that time my duties also included quite a broad range of other tasks. These included doing all the printing for the teachers on the Roneo Alcatel machine, relieving on the switchboard, doing the absentees, and various clerical jobs such as the new admissions and enrolment cards.
I first met Lennie in 1987 when I joined the staff to teach English. The years that followed were full of changes as our school expanded rapidly and Lennie’s role changed to meet the needs of a larger student population. Already highly proficient and experienced in intensive care, theatre, midwifery and so on, an encounter with a student who presented himself at Sick Bay with the words: ‘I’ve got a corkie’; prompted her to enrol at what was then Footscray Technical College, where she completed further training in sports medicine and asthma management. Today Lennie teaches a wide range of courses including: First Aid, Resuscitation, Asthma and Anaphylaxis.
During her time at Westbourne, Lennie has seen her son Marty (1985) and daughter Renee (1993) complete their education, reorganised her home in order to be a homestay ‘parent’ to many of our international students and presided over a major reconceptualisation of the school’s medical facilities.
In days gone by, a visit to Sick Bay invariably conjured up images of what Lennie describes as ‘thoughts of vomiting and illness’. Today, by contrast, the school’s spacious, well-equipped, modern Health Centre is a place where the role of the nursing team is multi-dimensional and service oriented, with a focus on education, prevention and the general well-being of students and staff.
So, on behalf of Westbourne, farewell Lennie. In establishing and managing the Health Centre, supporting your community and involving yourself in the life of the school, your contribution has been invaluable.
Thank you for your dedication, commitment and unfailing professionalism.