Thea Hayes Allen and Unwin Published October 2014 Thank you to the publisher for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not alter my review in any way.
Thea Hayes’ An Outback Nurse is a fascinating account of her life as nurse on a cattle station in the Australian outback (title is a little explanatory, I suppose). Thea was a city girl, just home from travels in Europe and the U.S. when she applies for a job in the Northern Territory on a whim. When she accepts the position she couldn’t have known then what her life would have in store for her and she didn’t know a thing about the four million cattle station she would soon be calling home. She found love, life and a home in the middle of nowhere.
I really enjoyed this. It is a fascinating slice of history of life out on the land. Farmers are the backbone of our country and Hayes gives us a personal view of what it is like for a woman working as a nurse. It’s not perfect and it’s not always easy. It is a fantastic insight into life on the land and the history of the Australian outback stations and also of the Indigenous people living and working alongside the white man. It is full of interesting anecdotes and stories, some humorous but others a bit more tragic, however all are written in the same light tone which does do a bit of a disservice to the tales she is telling. The writing is not exactly perfect but it doesn’t really matter too much.
What this book lacks in writing finesse, though, it makes up with its pure charm of the storytelling and the fascinating tales Thea was relaying. From the responsibilities of being a nurse to both the white staff and the local Aboriginal population to falling in love with a station hand and raising a family on the land, we are regaled with stories of the Negri races, Aboriginal customs and various celebrations, as well as the history of the Wave Hill Walk Off and other events. It’s funny how, at the time, no one would have realised how they were a part of history or how important it would be that stories like theirs, like Thea’s, are told and passed on through the following generations. An Outback Nurse is a fantastic and interesting account of the Australian spirit, of hard work and fun, of the men and women who helped to build, and continue to build, our country. A wonderful historic read that I highly recommend to people wanting to learn more about life on the land in northern Australia.