What’s In A Name?

I’m speaking at the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA) conference this year.

A few days ago I received an email that made me laugh:

Hi Robbo

I have just sent you the speaker confirmation email for the Medicines Management 2009, The 35th SHPA National Conference. Great to have you involved in the conference.

What I wanted to check with you is how you would like your details to be listed in the program.

It seems like pretty much everyone knows you as Robbo, and I would just like to check with you whether you would like to be listed as Andrew Roberts, Andrew “Robbo” Roberts or Robbo Roberts?

Thank you, look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

152579107_2fd24b5789_t Since my first day working out bush I have not been able to use my first name. Rather than using my nickname out bush and my real name “in town” I tend to use my nickname all the time, even in professional meetings.

The post Kunmarnanya my Lord, Kunmarnanya” and my page About The Blog” tell more of that story.

Five years on I still get the queries like the one above. I guess I will be for a while yet. So it’s good I find it humourous.

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Kunmarnanya my Lord, Kunmarnanya

My name’s Robbo. Well it’s really Andrew, but it can’t be used out here for cultural reasons.

My first day on the job out bush started with a local asking me what my name was. I replied with “Andrew” at which a look of horror appeared over the face of the aboriginal health worker.

I had not considered that Andrew might be a truly horrible name before this day.

“We can’t call you that, that’s a Kunmarnarra name.”

152579107_2fd24b5789_tMy name is Kunmarnarra. Kunmarnanya is the term for someone who had a similar name to someone who died. That name, and words similar in sound to it cannot be used and you are called “Kunmarnarra” or “Mr Roberts”. No, not everyone is called Mr Roberts, but I could have been.

I was the first pharmacist working in this part of Australia. Our remote indigenous population had no idea what a pharmacist did. They knew I wasn’t a doctor, so was initially called “Sister” because if I am not a doctor then I must be a nurse!

Not wanting the formality, and with this new role, wishing to be recognised as something other than as a generic Kunmarnarra I used my nickname. Robbo. Being an Aussie many names are shortened. Stevens to Stevo, Johnson to Johnno etc. But out here in aboriginal Australia few christan names end in “O” and I have been spared a name change since then.

I am called that right through the health service and beyond. I used to explain the reasons why I was called Robbo but now just say “G’day, I’m Robbo” and throw out my hand. I get a few quizzical looks I let slide by. It is a bit different, and quite good to be introduced by your only nickname in official meetings.

And so now I am known by my nickname through hospital staff, consultants, government bureaucrats and all others that I meet.

It is a nice way to be.

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