I’m coming to the end of my medical days and I thought I would go back to Bourke in NSW, where I had worked for three and a half years in the early 1970s, as a fitting place to do a locum and then retire from clinical medicine. I’ve always liked the place. There is something magical about Bourke and its history and people. I did my locum and I really enjoyed it. But … one weekend, I went to the cemetery to pay homage to some of the people I had worked with in the 1970s, particularly Aboriginal leaders Bill Reid and Wally Byers, as well as Fred Hollows. Wally’s grave was completely unmarked, and Bill and his wife’s graves were marked with a picket with a tag on them. Compared with the size of Fred’s grave, I found this to be completely offensive. They had worked with Fred and me; they were my friends. So I thought, I’ve got to do something about this. I sought out an Aboriginal man, an artist called Bobby Mackay, who’s originally from Bourke. He said it would be an enormous honour to make headstones for them, because he knew them both. Once the headstones are up, probably towards the end of the year, I will try and do another locum in Bourke and that will be my clinical swan song. I’ll retire when my registration runs out next September. I’ve got a lot of writing still to do, and I think my wife, Jackie (pictured), deserves a bit more of my time.
I grew up on a farm near Gnowangerup, WA, and horses have always been a big part of my life. Now I’m a country GP in York. Sometimes I ride to work and leave my horse in the paddock next to the surgery. I’m trying to reduce the hours I work as a GP so I can spend more time practising EAP (equine-assisted psychotherapy) with returned servicemen suffering from PTSD, depression and anxiety. My interest in EAP developed when I was dealing with a series of traumatic life events and noticed how much better I felt after going for a ride. This prompted me to do some research, and I found strong evidence that horses can enhance human potential and enable emotional healing. This was the start of a new life pathway for me. Buck Brannaman, the inspiration for the novel The Horse Whisperer, has become a good friend and mentor. He says: ‘The horse is a mirror to your soul. Sometimes you’ll like what you see; sometimes you won’t.’ My goal is to set up an EAP centre on a property near York. I have five horses and two camels. Camels are also incredibly intelligent, affectionate and highly intuitive. I couldn’t work the hours I do without an occasional ride at lunchtime or after work. I often ride through town and people say — ‘Oh yeah, there’s Dr Susie again’.
Dr Susan Stevenson
I know at least four or five of us in Bunbury who are pilots. I took it up two years ago, just to try to do something different. I live in this fantastic part of the world and I thought ‘is it too late to learn things?’ There’s an airport right here, seven minutes from my home. I can drive out there, get in an aeroplane, and fly. I just love the view up there. You get up there and nobody can ring you. You just take in the scenery. You can look for dolphins, look for whales. It’s a new skill, and it’s cheaper than having a caravan or a four-wheel drive. When you look for a plane, they’re advertised all over the country. You’ve got to get it delivered somehow. You either pay somebody else to do it, or, if you’re lucky, a flying instructor or member of your flying club comes with you, knowing what they’re doing, and you bring it back yourself. It’s a great adventure.
Dr Michael Comparti,
We had moved to the UK from Cape Town in South Africa, and I was struggling a bit. I had a baby and a three-year-old, was working as a doctor and was also studying for my final fellowship exams to become a GP. I had always fancied doing pottery, and someone recommended I do something outside of work as a stress reliever. It helped hugely. I did those classes for a couple of years and, while I wouldn’t say it saved my life, it certainly helped the situation. It was just nice to be able to switch off and forget who you are for three hours and have absolutely no responsibility. When we came to Perth, I brought my kiln with me and started doing these ceramic flowers. They were a bit of an experiment, but then I realised that people liked them when I sold them at markets, and it has sort of gone on from there. I’ve now got a studio and on my two days off as a GP, I head out to my workshop and make ceramic flowers. As a GP, someone always needs an opinion or has a problem that needs solving. In my workshop, it’s just my own thoughts and no one requires anything of me. I’m actually creating something too. It gives you a bit of a thrill to make things, I suppose. You don’t always get that in your day job. It’s the complete opposite of what I have done for the past 20 years as a doctor.