Marissa and Danielle

Anything but a Normal Day in Remote Queensland...

By Marrisa Arnot & Danielle Charles

Marissa is a Dietician, and Danielle a Podiatrist working in remote Queensland. The story below describes the challenges and joys of outreach and practice in remote Queensland.

As we fumble around our bedside tables to switch our alarm clock off as quickly as possible, in the vain attempt to silence it before it wakes up the bloke sleeping next to us, it is a small comfort to know at least one other person is doing the same thing just around the corner. It’s 5:20am, it’s dark, it’s not really cold because we live in Far North Queensland and for the “Foot Lady” and “Food Lady” (as many of our clients refer to us) it’s the beginning of an outreach trip.

The Torres Strait and Northern Peninsula Area Health Service District has 22 primary health care centres spread across 16 islands and the tip of Cape York. For most Allied Health staff working here, you are a sole practitioner servicing a district which consists of approximately 10000 people. For many staff outreach trips are a regular part of their weekly work. The Podiatrist and Dietitian make up two thirds of the diabetes educators outreach team with a Diabetes Nurse Educator completing the trio.

After our early wake up, we catch a ferry from Thursday Island to Horn Island and then a bus to the airport. It’s now about 6:45am and we’re not even half way there. The flights to the outer island communities range from a short 15 minute trip to Moa Island, to an hour-long flight to Murray Island. Sometimes we are on the “milk-run” and find ourselves stopping at 1, 2 or 3 other islands on the way. Luckily the views of the islands and reef are spectacular; the kind people pay money for.

We usually arrive at the clinic about 8:30am to find familiar faces sitting patiently, waiting to see the “Foot Lady” or “Food Lady” and we are greeted with a friendly hello. This wasn’t always the case, but after 4 years in the Torres Strait we have earned a certain fond acceptance.

Our work consists of an incredibly diverse caseload, which continually challenges us to employ an innovative approach. This makes the job interesting but there are so many other aspects to life in the Torres Strait that make it really special here: 

The sound of Island Ladies laughing uproariously outside in the waiting area . . .

The sharing of traditional recipes . . . .being told secret fishing and cray-fishing spots or practices . . .

Dingy rides to work, just a stone throw from PNG . . .

The sense of pride when you see someone turn the corner and make changes to their lifestyle . . .

Having one of the most naturally beautiful environments as your back yard and with endless opportunities for exploring, camping, fishing, diving and adventure at your fingertips...

The days are long on outreach trips, usually not getting home until 7pm 2 days later. But it is all made worthwhile by the little things . . . . when you can conduct a diabetic foot check in Creole and no one batts an eyelid . . . . when the locals prefer your modified healthy Semur Chicken to the traditional island recipe.

The Torres Strait is an amazingly place to live and work as an Allied Health Professional. No two days are the same; the service is provided in a variety of settings, from the hospital to primary health centre to under a tree, and the workload continually challenges and extends you. It is a friendly and social place that gets under your skin, a place that gives back as much you give.