An Outback Nurse 

Reviewed By  Janet Mawdesley       October 13, 2014


Author  Thea Hayes

Distributor:       Booktopia/Amazon 
ISBN:                 9781760111328
Publisher:         Allen & Unwin
Release Date:    


When Thea Hayes accepted a nursing position on Wave Hill Station in the Northern Territory, she did so reluctantly; all the while hoping someone else might come along and accept the job. They didn’t and after her first day as nurse, hostess and housekeeper on the second largest property in the world under one management, she realised she had fallen in love with as well as developed a deep fascination with the outback, just like that!

In this lovely wander back through time Thea allows us to walk in her shoes as she takes us onto a large and eventful cattle station in remote Australia; a place many of us would love to have been and experienced the many challenges she had while working, falling in love, having children and caring for all the many people that made up the ‘family’ living on Wave Hill and then Gordon Downs.

We laugh at the goings on at the annual Negri race meeting where to win the race with your station bred horse was not necessarily the main reason to attend. It was the annual social event where all people scattered far and wide throughout the outback gathered in one place to enjoy the social side of the races. Catching up on gossip and the ladies to get dressed up in their social best outfits, one of course for each occasion was often considered of more importance, depending on whom you were talking to, the ladies or the men.

Each of the chapters relates to an event on the Station: falling in love with Ralph, even though he advised her he was going to marry her, anyway, her efforts at leaning how to ride much to amusement of the station hands, dressing for dinner every night to maintain the formalities even though the temperature was in the 40’s and they were many miles from anywhere in particular, vaccination time for the children, the aboriginal camp and the many people who lived there and made up the backbone of the staff running the station and so much more: all the little and big bits that go to make up everyday life on an cattle station.

Thea talks about the walk off that saw many on the big stations lose their jobs, the visit of Gough and Margaret Whitlam to the station when the country, Daguragu, was handed back in ceremonial style to the Gurindgi people in 1970. Whitlam handed over the deeds to the country, gathered a handful of sand and pouring it into Vincent Lingiari’s hand, symbolising the restoration of the land to the rightful owners.

Such was the mix of life events from the mundane to the terrifying, from joy to sorrow, laughter to tears and frustration and downright dangerous which she has so skilfully bought to life once again. Through her eyes we can all enjoy a sojourn in the outback, cattle station style as well as enjoying some of the rich history and folkloric which make up the threads woven into the fabric of Australia and the Australian people.