Growing up on a farm in Queensland, author Annabelle Brayley wanted to be a hairdresser but family expectations led her to a career in nursing, which proved very useful when she became a writer.
What is your background?
I completed my nursing training in Charleville in south-west Queensland in the late ‘70s, married Ian and went to live on his family’s remote sheep and cattle station until we sold out and moved to the semi-remote district where we now live. For several years I had the unusual distinction of working for a health service from my remote home office thanks to someone who didn’t see our geographic isolation as an obstacle.
This is your sixth book—how did you catch the writing bug?
In 2006 I suggested to the publisher of R.M. Williams Outback magazine that someone should write a story about a family here in the Morven district who were celebrating the centenary of their merino stud. The editor then asked me if I could write. So a few Outback stories later I wrote about the positive impact the Queensland’s Condamine Cods Rugby Club had on one man’s battle with depression. The Cods then asked me to write their history, Caging Octopuses: A Tale Based on the First Decade of Condamine Cods Rugby. In 2012 a Penguin Books Australia publisher read my Outback magazine cover story about rural and remote health and asked me to collect stories for my previous book, Bush Nurses. As they say, the rest is history.
What inspired you to write Bush Doctors?
Having finished my training in Charleville with some legendary doctors, I had very firm opinions about the current status of health and the apparent lack of doctors in rural and remote Australia. I wanted to know just who was out here and what they were doing. As I wrote in the book’s introduction, “They’re vibrant, generous, enthusiastic, often exhausted but always resilient, and they love what they do.” I couldn’t resist sharing their stories.
What were the reactions of people when you asked to tell their stories?
Because they love what they’re doing, they were happy to share their stories. I think they’re all proud of their profession and especially of being bush doctors.
You have a great mix of male and female and some very different remote locations—was that on purpose?
I made a deliberate effort to reflect the gender and geographic diversity of our rural and remote medicos.
What is a favourite anecdote from the book?
There are so many I doubt I could decide. I have a favourite in every story! But I do laugh every time I read, “I’m the doctor, not the bloody vet!” in Bill Glasson’s story ‘The Eye Angel’.
How vital was it to have your own background in rural and remote health to write this book?
It undoubtedly made it easier to connect with them in the first instance and it certainly made it easier for me to understand the doctors’ work and lifestyles.
What is important to you today in your own life?
I enjoy going to our local church because I like singing hymns and value the community connection. Our church is an important hub in this little community. I believe one should embrace opportunities—the adventure lies in recognising them.
What would you like the book to achieve?
First and foremost I’d like the book to be seen as a celebration of all our incredible bush doctors and therefore read by everyone. Secondly, I’d love medical students and residents and registrars to read these stories and be encouraged to give rural and remote medicine a crack. There are amazing career opportunities and wonderful lifestyles to be had in the inland. My heroes are bush doctors!
As told to Julie Houghton
Read our review of Bush Doctors here