Lynelle Fallon’s got one heck of a story to tell.
From high school drop out to teen mother and then hospital cook to radiographer, Lynelle is a proud Indigenous woman now working at Mackay Base Hospital.
The quietly spoken and modest 34-year-old left Pioneer State High after Year 10 and started working at Coles.
“I never believed I could do anything. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and I always thought I wasn’t smart enough to be successful,” she said.
Her stint in retail was followed by a session with a career advisor who helped her work through a list of what she enjoyed in life.
With cooking coming in at number one she started a small business traineeship in Airlie Beach, working in cafes, a service station, hotels and later a restaurant.
Lynelle got married and had her first baby at 18 and spent two years being a full-time mum before starting a chef apprenticeship which was later put on hold with the arrival of baby number two.
She pinpoints the loss of her younger brother to suicide in 2005 as a defining moment.
“He was three years younger than me … you get told they’re gone and you have to live with it. It was life changing thing to go through.
“My Life had hit rock bottom and it all felt too hard. My kids kept me sane and I knew I had to be there for them. I wanted to do something with my life and I knew being a chef would be difficult with a young family,” she said.
Again self-doubt threatened to hold her back.
“In your head you say to yourself, you didn’t finish high school, you’re not smart enough to do anything. By then I was pregnant with my third baby and I moved back with my parents and little sister to support each other trying to cope with our loss,” she said.
A TV show about midwives and the Cathy Freeman-lead Close the Gap campaign ‘Nurses- Helping Our Mob’ inspired her to study nursing and midwifery, and she completed a STEPS and WIST course at CQ University to prepare her for tertiary study.
“That was really hard, but I was able to study at home and still look after my children. In my mind I still wasn’t sure I could actually do a uni degree and I needed to work so I got a job in the kitchen at Mackay Base Hospital.”
After working in the kitchen for a year Lynelle learned she loved working in a hospital and found the confidence to enrol in nursing.
After passing her first year of nursing a family friend who worked in radiology told her CQU’s new four year radiology degree was starting in Mackay.
She worked in the kitchen at weekends and continued to work in the hospital kitchen while she studied.
Not even the birth of her fourth baby could stop her from full-time study.
“She was born at the perfect time in the week break between terms and my supportive husband stayed home to look after her and children,” she said.
Lynelle graduated from university in 2014 and worked at Mackay Radiology before starting at the Base in 2017.
And what would she say to other girls unsure about their education and future?
“That you are smart, and you can do anything you want to do, no matter what your circumstances in life are. Especially to those who end up having kids young and think that’s the end, you can do it with or without a family.”
Despite the longer road she has no regrets and now with her children all in school there’s more time to keep learning.
“I still can’t believe I’m working at the Base. I’ve wanted to work here in medical imaging since I was in the kitchen,” she said.
Lynelle has a proud cultural heritage and identifies as Torres Strait Islander and Japanese from her father and Aboriginal (Waanyi) and Chinese from her mother.
“My husband is South Sea Islander so all of the children have a rich cultural background.”
As a radiographer Lynelle does x-rays and CT scans for patients coming through emergency, theatre, outpatients and on the ward.
“A good day for me is making patients feel comfortable and genuinely cared for and I love playing my role collaborating within a multi-professional team”.
“I also enjoy being part of a supportive and smart team, I am always in awe of how much knowledge people have, who inspire me to keep aiming forward and living my life to the fullest.”