On the back of a 30-year career as a nurse and public health campaigner, Annette Milligan has a new role that will see her focus on improving outcomes for victims of sexual assault.

The Nelson woman has been appointed chair of the Medical Sexual Assault Clini­cians Aotearoa (MEDSAC) board, effective the beginning of February.

Published in Stuff

The organisation oversees the clinical standards, training, education and support of clinicians who are involved in sexual assault examinations.

“They are an amazing group of clinicians, incredible people who are doing incredible work in improving the services for any victim of sexual assault.”

Milligan worked with police and the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board to set up a local sexual assault service and became involved with the national organisation in 2016.

Since then, she had succeeded in enabling nurse practitioners to become registered sexual assault examiners.

Milligan was particularly interested in promoting the service to potential referrers so that doctors, nurses, counsellors and other health professionals who were told of a sexual assault, knew that there were “incredible teams” throughout the country who were skilled in providing psychological support as well as collecting forensic evidence.

“It is a really difficult thing to disclose. It is difficult to talk about something that is probably one of the worst things in your life to people who are probably strangers.

“I think it is particularly difficult for men and I’m incredibly mindful that men are a very tiny fraction of the number of people who access the services nationally and yet we know males are assaulted just as woman are.”

Milligan said the sooner support could be provided, the better.

“There are really good services out there to support at any age and any gender.

“Being aware of triggering events and knowing there are skilled professionals who can work with them to help move through that so that any event doesn’t dominate their lives nor define who they are.”

In Nelson, there was support available from Sexual Abuse Support and Healing (SASH) and the Male Room.

“When we hear the stories of people who have accessed those services it is just incredible the difference it has made in reducing that ongoing trauma.

“It’s a very difficult area of work but it is also a very rewarding area of work when you can make changes and get improvements of services and that is what MEDSAC are constantly doing, to have better outcomes for victims of sexual violence.”

Milligan said she had been working in the sector for a long time and brought a different perspective as a nurse at the end of a long career working in public health.

In January, Milligan was recognised for her services to nursing and made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

She founded one of the earliest nurse-led medical centres in New Zealand by establishing the Independent Nursing Practice in Nelson during the late 80s. At the time, there was only one other nurse-owned health clinic in the country.

By Samantha Gee
Published in Stuff
21 February 2020