Well known author Deb Hunt will be a guest speaker at Quota International of Taree Inc.’s International Women’s Day event on March 8. Deb has led an exciting life, having had involvement with the Royal Flying Doctor Service while based in Broken Hill. Deb tells us about her books, her time with the RFDS and her upcoming visit to Taree …
You’ve led what to many would seem to be an adventurous life … Starting in England, working in various professions, including being a journalist, librarian, PR exec and teacher, then moving across the world to Australia. What was the impetus behind this decision to emigrate?
I’ve lived and worked in several different countries, including England, France, Spain and Saudi Arabia. Working as an event manager took me all over the world, but the best chance of all was when I realised I could apply to work in Australia.
Life offers all of us certain golden opportunities, and sometimes we take them and sometimes we don’t. I believe in that phrase, “he who hesitates is lost”. Like everyone, I’ve had my fair share of missed opportunities but when I’ve been willing to trust my instincts, the right door has opened – and it has generally worked out well.
In this case my instincts told me to throw caution to the wind and apply for permanent residency. I plunged in, even though I had no idea if would find work here. The application process took six weeks from start to finish, and I ended up with a fantastic job, working as a journalist with Australian House & Garden magazine.
One common thread in your various occupations is “communication” – especially that of the written kind. What led to you writing your first book, Dream Wheeler?
I met a woman in London, under very unusual circumstances, whose approach to life fascinated me. Jane Lambert refused to wear black, she flirted with any man who came to the front door and she embarked on a crazy adventure when she was in her mid 60s, in spite of extreme disability. She inspired and uplifted everyone who met her, including me. I felt compelled to share her story, and it formed the basis of Dream Wheeler.
You had a stint working with the Royal Flying Doctor Service, living in Broken Hill during this time. What did your role with the Service involve … and what are some memories you take away from this time that have had a profound impact on you personally?
I worked in communications for the RFDS, writing stories about the work of the service and the people whose lives are dependent on the Flying Doctor. Most of us take health care for granted. We know we can get to see a doctor, a dentist, or any kind of health professional, whenever we need to. It’s not like that in remote areas. No one takes health care for granted. I will never forget the stories of hardship and the heartfelt thanks of any person who has ever been helped by the Flying Doctor. People who work for the Royal Flying Doctor Service operate under extreme circumstances and the gratitude of every patient is humbling.
Your second book, Love in the Outback is a memoir detailing your move from England to outback Australia, and the experiences you had there. What was the process of writing this book like?
It was great fun writing the book, because it gave me a chance to try and capture that initial shock of encountering the Outback, and the growing awareness of how much I loved it.
Having lived in places like London, Madrid and Sydney, I wasn’t sure about moving to Broken Hill; life in a remote town was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, yet it taught me what really mattered in life. Broken Hill taught me the true value of community. Where else do people leave jars of jam on your doorstep? Where else do people welcome you with such generosity and hospitality? Broken Hill opened my eyes to the beauty of the Outback, and I will never forget the three years I spent there. I will always be glad to go back.
Your next book, Australian Farming Families, introduces us to eight Australian farming families, following their struggles and triumphs. What can you say you learned about Australian rural families from researching this book?
Australian farmers are some of the most resilient people in the world. They operate under extreme conditions in harsh environments, and their only certainty is uncertainty. They often have more bad years than good years, and most of them live a long way from the kind of facilities we all take for granted – like libraries, schools and hospitals. But none of the farmers I interviewed was looking for sympathy. They love what they do. They care passionately about the land, their animals and their families, and they have great stories to tell.
You’ll be in Taree on March 8, as a guest speaker at Quota International of Taree Inc.’s International Women’s Day event. What are some of the topics you’ll be covering in your talk?
I’ll talk about my own experiences and those of some of the people I’ve interviewed. I’ll also talk about my partner, Clyde Thomson, who recently retired as CEO of the Royal Flying Doctor Service SE Section. Clyde has a fascinating connection with Taree local Harvey Ells, who rescued him after Clyde was involved in a serious helicopter crash fifty years ago.
Clyde was lost in the bush with third degree burns to sixty percent of his body and Harvey was the man who eventually found him, twenty-four hours after the crash. Harvey and his wife will be at the dinner, and I’m looking forward to meeting them both.
Following the dinner, Quota will be making a donation to the Royal Flying Doctor Service South Eastern Division. Why do you feel it’s so important to contribute to the RFDS?
The RFDS is the most trusted charity in Australia for a very good reason. It is only because of the Flying Doctor that any of us can live, work or travel safely across this vast country. The people who work for the RFDS are always there in the background, ready to respond, and like many Australians I want to give them something back in return.
What is your life’s motto?
Life offers endless new opportunities; it’s up to us to decide what to do with them.
Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
On my blog – www.strawberriesinthedesert.com
See Deb at the Quota International of Taree Inc. International Women’s Day event. Substantial canapes and Quota sweet treats will be served; plus, a complimentary drink on arrival. Tuesday, March 8 at 6pm.
St John’s Hall, Victoria Street, Taree.
Tickets: $25; on sale at Margaret’s Underfashions, Taree (6551 3203).
Further info: contact 6552 5194.