I love a sunburnt country

I received an email this week from a friend and colleague, alerting me to a report recently released by the Royal Flying Doctor Service:  The Royal Flying Doctor Service: Responding to injuries in remote and rural Australia.

The reports on falls, burns, poisonings, transport accidents, workplace injuries, drownings, self-harm and assault, with Australians living in remote and very remote areas:

  • Almost twice as likely as city residents to sustain an injury, and 2.2 times more likely to be hospitalised for an injury;
  • Four times more likely to die from a transport related injury than major city residents;
  • 3.8 times (remote) and 4.2 times (very remote) more likely to die from assault than major city residents; and
  • 1.7 times (remote) and 1.8 times (very remote) more likely to die from suicide than major city residents.

Injuries are a leading cause of death and hospitalisation among children—more children die from injuries (36%), than from cancer (19%) and diseases of the nervous system (11%) combined; Indigenous Australians; and agricultural workers.

While, as an injury prevention researcher, I encourage you all to become familiar with the report and the findings, the email sparked two memories for me. The first was a conversation with US colleagues after I invited them to come to visit Australia as we worked collaboratively. If you search the internet, you will find many animals might try to kill you. We have crocodiles, irukandji jellyfish, snakes, spiders, and my colleagues could share many more animals-of-death. Having lived in Australia my whole life, I reassured them that the likelihood of them meeting an untimely demise during their trip was pretty low, and the good news is they went home in one piece.

The second memory – sparked almost instantaneously – was a flashback to my childood. During primary school we learnt the most wonderful poem, My Country, by Dorothea Mackellar, by rote. This stanza in particular has always remained with me:

I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains,

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding rains.

I love her far horizons,

I love her jewel sea,

Her beauty and her terror –

The wide brown land for me!

Despite the beauty of the poem, and that I love thinking about how this poem resonates with me, growing up in the country can be dangerous for many reasons, including the fact that medical assistance is not always close by.