My journey

These pages contain a pictorial record of my time in Australia. The first slide shows the main places (indicated by dots) that I spent time working with colleagues, students and community-based organisations.

The lines connecting the dots show the journeys I made between these centres. First, from Monash in Melbourne to the University of Western Sydney via Swan Hill, Broken Hill, Bourke, Dubbo, Bathurst (where I visited the UWS rural medicine programme) and Wentworth Falls. Second, from Sydney to Newcastle University via New England University in Armidale and Tamworth.

The following slideshows record something of each of these places and the journeys between them.

Here are some pictures of Melbourne: the City centre from St Kilda (where I watched the penguins roosting) from the Botanic Gardens, a sunrise, and some scenes on the Monash campus including Building 15 which was my temporary home when at the University.

This short series capture a short weekend trip from Melbourne to Phillip Island to see the ‘Penguin Parade’. It is not permitted to photograph the parade but you can snap yourself with a Koala if you can find one (I did) and also visit Churchill Island, the most southerly mangrove swamp in the world and site of a preserved farmstead. Kooweerup is on the way and boasts the fine piece of advertising for the local vets. I also liked the information panel from a local monument which demonstrates active and successful community mobilisation using local resources, skills and traditions to promote health

These three are from Swan Hill. One shows a kangaroo – my first sighting in the wild and typically at as such a distance that it was fairly indistinct. There’s also an image of the river and the giant cod. As Bill Bryson has noted, Australia is very good for giant roadside features. The cod is almost as famous as the big banana or lobster. I also passed a giant horse fixed to the front of building  as drove to Monash everyday. It adorned a shop called ‘horse torque’ which I meant to visit to establish if it supplied equine or motoring gadgets of indeed both. Such apparently odd combinations are not unusual. My favourite being the shop in Kerang which proudly proclaimed on its signage that it retailed toys, fishing equipment and guns. It really does.

This series are from Bourke.  The bridge is now closed to traffic – which rushes over a sweeping concrete construction just to the side of the old bridge – it is also non-operational. Hundreds of Little Corellas (I think) gathered daily on the river side making a fantastic racket at dawn and dusk. In these pictures you can just make them out perching on and swinging from the trees.

This series show the ‘red road’ that I took out into the bush. It’s hard to convey by any means the extraordinary nature of this environment. I will try and do so somewhere in this blog in the context of writing about some of the people I met and the conversations that we had and what they said about health, health services, people and medicine.

These picture are of my destination – a  cattle and sheep station deep in the bush.

This set are taken at Byrock. Byrock is tiny town on the highway from Bourke to Nyngan and behind the pub one can find these rock holes which are a remarkable geological feature which catches rainfall (and there’s only 8-10 inches a year here) and forms these natural ponds. The site has special significance to the local indigenous people about which you can read more here

During my time in Sydney I spent a Saturday walking around Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains. This dramatic range divides the coastal plain of NSW from the interior. For around 40 years it represented an impassable obstacle to European incursion into the heart of the country. It was to the considerable surprise of the first Europeans to cross the range in 1813 to find that cattle had already wandered round. The area quickly developed both as a resort in its own right as well as transit route first to Bathurst and then the deeper interior of the country. The area in now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Park. As a consequence it is well marked with trails and walks of varying difficulty and length. I took the national trail and a vertiginous set of scrambles and ladderways called Slack’s Stairs to the forest floor. Passing through damp, rocky forest I came back up via the Valley of the Waters.

The ‘Blue’ epithet is derived from the haze produced by the droplets of oils rising from the Eucalyptus trees which is clearly visible in the photographs. I found much of the terrain reminiscent at this time of year of the Southern Uplands – rocks and water and deep, juicy greenery and cool clear air.

You will also see that I snapped a charming sign which is an inimitably Australian fashion drove home the risks of leaving the path at the many places where is skirts long, straight drops.

On Sunday I made a walk around Sydney City centre and photographed the obvious but irresistible and impressive sights of the Opera House and Bridge. The best part of the day was a late afternoon trip to Manly which boasts these fantastic flags which seem to me be an homage to Australia’s significant contribution to the theorisation of masculinities. I did my bit by paddling but was prevented from a full expression involving taking a swim in cellular draws by a film crew shooting an advert which involved two women lying on the sand at Shell Cove and two more pushing prams with dolls around the promenade. I made do with an ice-cream.

My time in Sydney city and the immediate environs was followed by a stint at  Campbelltown working on the University of Western Sydney campus. Photographs from this time have made their way into a variety of blogs on this site but here are a few images showing the striking beauty of the medicine building. I really liked the wall at reception which shows all the Aboriginal languages spoken in Australia.

The next section of my trip took me to Armidale in northern New South Wales. This rural city is home to the University of New England which has a small rural school of medicine running in the programme from Newcastle University.  The route to Armidale takes one up Bucket’s way and along Thunderbolt’s Highway. This road climbs high through the mountains and onto the tablelands beyond. These images show some views of the dramatic rock formations at the start of the climb just outside Gloucester and then  from the highest lookout. I have tacked onto the end a picture of the rural school to show my destination and home for a week (in due course I will be able to link from elsewhere in this blog to a public lecture I gave during my stay).

Armidale is home to a fine museum containing a range of interesting artifacts with connections to local history and culture. I was particularly taken with the following items which relate to medicine. The art and risk of lay diagnosis and perceptions about the way to elicit the interest and attention of a doctor are well illustrated by the notes describing a man as ‘nearly dead’. This has particular resonance given that one of the reasons for the development of medicine at New England has been to try and address the inequities in health provision in rural and remote Australia. The treatment of snake bite is terrifying as are the various nostrums and potions on offer until the early part of the last century.











About learningtodoctor

Simon is Senior Teaching Fellow at Durham University.
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