Sr Camille Poidevin entered the Sisters of St John of God Subiaco March 1950 at the age of 25.
She was already a highly accomplished musician having studied for many years with Professor Alexander Sverjensky at the Conservatorium of Music in Sydney and in 1947 was awarded a diploma as a Licentiate in Piano by the Royal Schools of Music, London and the Australia Music Examiners Board. She also studied the violin and organ.
After her novitiate Camille undertook her general nursing and midwifery qualifications.
In 1964 Camille applied to transfer to the missionary province of St Francis Xavier and so began her 46 years of ministry in the Kimberley and her special relationship with the Derby community.
Her first taste of life in Derby was at the Native Hospital and after a year she was transferred to the Leprosarium (now known as Bungarun) where she nursed for the next ten years, six as Matron.
It was during this period she was awarded a prestigious study grant by the WA Government to spend some months at Carville in the US to study new trends in the care and treatment of patients with Hansen’s Disease.
Camille’s time at Bungarun enabled her to combine her medical training with her love of music. In her memoirs she stated: part of the patients treatment was to work with the Staff as soon as they felt able or wanted to. These people were incredible and we would never have been able to carry on without their help and support. ……Music played a very important part in the Rehabilitation of patients with the staff and patients enjoyed many wonderful concerts and musical evenings.
Camille’s study and knowledge of Hansens Disease was recognised by the medical profession and she speaks of accompanied Drs Elphingstone and Holman for a number of years on regular Hansens surveys, flying to every town and station in the Kimberley. … In the most isolated Pastoral Stations we examined hundreds of people on air strips with only the wings of the plane for shade.
Many of the relationships she made endured long after her time at the Lep. She had a wonderful memory and empathy for individuals and families linked to the Leprosarium.
In 1975 Camille went to Victoria to undertake child health training and on her return went to a newly established ministry at Roebourne for two years. While there she trained the Roebourne primary School choir who won first place in the Port Hedland music festival.
In 1978 she went to minster in Balgo as a Community Health Sister and in 1981 transferred to Derby and became a District Nurse Supervisor for the West Kimberley section. Although this was a challenging period due to travel and staff shortages Camille regarded this time… very fruitful period of work.
1984/85 brought a complete reversal of life style when Camille returned to her first love MUSIC. She studied in Sydney to gain her Teacher’s Associate Diploma from Trinity College in London. She returned to Derby in 1986 and began a music ministry which continued until she retired from Derby in early 2010. This period of her life was richly involved with the Derby Community, Holy Rosary School, private music teachings, local concerts, choir recitals, bringing the first music exams to the Kimberley and much more.
In the 1999 Australia Day Honours List Camille was awarded Medal of the Order of Australia (O.A.M.) for her services to Community Health and Music Education.
Camille was highly professional in the various roles she accepted during her 46 years in the Kimberley. She was always looking to push the boundaries, to ensure the people she served had the best possible.
In her last two years at the Villa the rosary beads slipped through her fingers as she recalled the patients, students, friends, donors and her fellow Sisters.