A number of Bearbrass members have prison experience, but don’t get the wrong idea. For example, Julie Cookson was a “custodial nurse” and Lynne Wenig was an official Prison Visitor. Others keep their prison involvement quiet. Here’s a profile of Julie…

Julie grew up in Thornbury/Bundoora and made several false starts to get into nursing. She joined Army Nursing Corps and did basic training but the army figured they could do without her: her discharge certificate read “Unsuitable to be a soldier”. She did clerical work for banks and insurers and another half-year’s nursing training at Austin Hospital. She went back to clerical and then finished training at Queen Victoria Hospital. She ran the Emergency Departments’ nursing at Queen Vic and Prince Henry respectively, and became director of nursing at Victoria Family Planning from the mid to late 80s. “We called it ‘Condom Palace’,” she jokes.
Other nursing management jobs followed, including ante-natal at Mercy and outpatients at Austin. From there she went into the psychiatric area, working at Thomas Embling Forensic Psychology Hospital for five years and gaining a post-grad diploma in mental health.
She moved into child protection with the Dept. of Human Services, investigating reports of child abuse, and from there stepped into police roles, spending five years as a custodial nurse.
What’s that? “We assessed prisoners as they came in to the Remand Centre, Phyllis Frost, Melbourne Assessment Prison and Port Phillip Prison. Most had unaddressed medical issues and many had drug and alcohol issues, with withdrawal-management a special problem.”
Did you like the job? “I really did, I loved it. I did it from 2002-14. I seemed to relate to prisoners, I was achieving something really positive by helping them. Some of their back-stories would make you cry. Because I’d done so much child protection work, I recognised how many of the prisoners from their dysfunctional upbringing never had a chance in life; for them it was all Catch 22.
“They were often in a cycle in and out of gaol because on release they had nowhere to go except to their old pals of the drug-alcohol world. I retired in 2014 because a patient at Thomas Embling stabbed me in the leg. It was minor but after another accident there, it was the last straw. But I’d go back to the job tomorrow if I could.”
Julie enjoys retirement, Docklands friends and a good detective novel or a history or cooking book. She’s keen to find fulfilling voluntary work. 
As for Bearbrass, she loves the diverse enthusiastic members and the good speakers. (She's also a member of our neighbour Sunrise Probus).  She’s organising a Bearbrass dine-out group for when COVID lifts.
After hearing Julie’s career, we’d have to say our members haven’t led a sheltered life!