Gillian Nikakis has worked as a midwife, a community health nurse, and a credentialed mental health nurse before becoming a counsellor in her own practice. Already a published author (He’s Not Coming Home), she drew on her extensive medical career for her self-published semi-autographical novel, Medicine, Maggots & Musings. She’s been on ABC talk shows around the country and in New Zealand, and she received the Medal of the Order of Australia for services to mental health.
Tell us about Medicine, Maggots & Musings.
The story was initially intended to be a lighthearted social history of my nursing career. As it progressed I knew there were many events I could not omit as they have been so influential in choices I have made in my life. I have been working on the book for the last five years, interviewing different people to find out what they considered the biggest changes that have happened over the last 50 years. The answers have been fascinating. I have included many events in my life that I felt people would relate to. This included the breakdown of my marriage, single parenting, re-partnering, and the loss of loved ones. I hope this book will amuse, appal, even educate and hold the reader’s interest while offering an alternative view of specific events.
Why did you decide to write this book?
I have been witness to some terrible things in my career, and writing these things down has helped me to understand and appreciate how I came to be confronted with these things. Because of the privileged position I was in I wanted to document the events as the material I have is unique. While working with adult survivors of childhood abuse I made a commitment to alert the community to the depth and extent that abusers will go to keep their victims silent. I have come across many inspirational people and have pondered long about how I can honour them without abusing their trust or betraying their confidence. The people I mention have all assured me that if their story helps other people, they are happy for me to mention them.
Tell us about receiving the Medal of the Order of Australia.
This was such a huge surprise and honour. For many years I worked in a voluntary capacity for the Cunningham Dax Collection. This is the largest collection of mental health art in the southern hemisphere. I was the co-ordinator of the Child Trauma Collection and on the acquisition committee. In 2003 I organised an art exhibition to run alongside an international conference on trauma. There were 400 pieces of art drawn by clients during their therapy from around Australia. Clients could draw things they could not talk about. It was such a powerful way for counsellors to understand the impact of the abuse on the child.
Who do you think your book will appeal to?
I expected good feedback from nurses but have been surprised at how many people relate to the events in the book. It is not just for nurses as so many things I have experienced strike a chord in others.