Helen McAllister - Celebrating 30 years of service

National Director of St John of God Health Care’s Raphael Services Helen McAllister this year celebrates 30 years’ of service, all focussed on providing the best care possible for newborn babies and families.

10 December 2018 

Her career has seen her serve as Deputy Director of Obstetrics, Gynaecology and Newborn Services at St John of God Subiaco Hospital and Manager of Midwifery Services at St John of God Murdoch Hospital for 20 years, where she spearheaded the establishment of the hospital’s maternity services.

In her current role, Helen oversees a team of over 60 caregivers across Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria to deliver low-cost or no out-of-pocket perinatal and infant mental healthHelen McAllister services to over 2,000 mums, dads and families who are experiencing emotional distress every year.

“I come to work every day feeling positive about making a difference,” Helen said.

“It is a privilege to be able to work for an organisation that funds programs such as Raphael Services.

"It is comforting to know that finances aren’t a barrier for parents getting good emotional support and mental health care.”

During her three years with Social Outreach, Helen has opened and expanded several new sites including a satellite site in Cockburn which started as two rooms, two days a week, and now operates five days a week.

“Clients now have more choice which has meant more clinicians are working from Cockburn because it is a permanent location and shows there is a need in the area for what we offer,” she said.

Helen has many fond memories of working at St John of God, but of the hundreds of babies Helen has helped deliver, her favourites involve the first baby born in the new Murdoch Hospital maternity ward and the subsequent delivery of her own baby, Tessa, in the same ward.

“Having Tessa was a highlight. I felt really privileged having the Murdoch team looking after me when I had her. I felt very safe and comfortable,” she said.

“Seeing the first baby born at Murdoch was also pretty special, and it was born without anything going wrong and without any drama. That was really amazing because you felt like your team had achieved.”

In 2017, Helen had the privilege of embarking on a pilgrimage to retrace the footsteps of St John of God and the Sisters of St John.

“Doing pilgrimage makes what I do even more real – wherever you go you see St John of God Health Care and you realise that you are a part of something bigger,” she said.

“I’ve always had a reverence for the Sisters of St John, but you really get to see the hardship they endured - it’s a fantastic legacy to be a part of.”

Helen reflects back on how much nursing and the organisation as a whole has changed over the years since she first started in August 1988.

“Hospitals historically were built for doctors and nurses to work in, but the big difference with the maternity unit at Murdoch was we created it with the mother in mind,” she said.

“We had single rooms with double beds, fridge, baby bath, tea and coffee - that was a real shift. We had to think, rather than supporting the mother as a patient, we had to support her with all the comforts of home and making the hospital surroundings more home-like than hospital-like.”

Helen has distinguished herself during three decades of experience in child and family health which included sitting on the original steering committee for Raphael Services as the midwifery subject matter expert in 2003, prior to the opening of the first Raphael Services site in Wembley.

Over the past year, Raphael Services has delivered 23,753 individual counselling sessions and provided treatment to 44 dads suffering with perinatal anxiety and depression to those who may not have otherwise been able to access support.

Helen’s 30-year milestone was celebrated with a morning tea ceremony alongside her fellow Social Outreach caregivers.