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Bourke farewells Dr Julian Short — ‘I so love Bourke’

Dr Julian Short at the Bourke Remembrance Day Service last Friday. Photo TWH

Tricia Duffield

Psychiatrist Dr Julian Short has been visiting Bourke for 23 years, helping people manage some of the most challenging hurdles of life in the bush – drought, financial hardship, isolation, and the mental health impacts of those difficulties.

Now, Dr Short is retiring, and last week he said that he will be leaving with great reluctance after spending more than two decades in a town he has grown to love.

Dr Short has been a practicing psychiatrist for over 30 years, is a psychiatric consultant to three teaching hospitals and works for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

He graduated in medicine from the University of Sydney in 1970 and was admitted as a fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists in 1976.

During his tenure in Bourke, Dr Short brought a down-to-earth and dignified bedside manner to his work. He said he hoped he had left a legacy in the community - ‘that sometimes, I did a bit of good’.

“Bourke has changed over the years,” Dr Short said. “It was booming when I first came here, there was cotton blowing all over the streets, there were musicians and there was a lot more going on.

“Then the drought came, and I watched Bourke go through some hard times. There seems to be more of a spring in the air now with the rain and I hope it gets back to being that vibrant place again.

“The drought affected people and as I saw fortunes dwindling away, farms diminishing, lives shrinking - people beginning to doubt themselves.

“It’s easy to say, ‘it’s not your fault’, but that’s not the way the mind works. Their sense of self shrunk, and I saw that people liked themselves less, I saw people sink into depression and I saw people die.

“Positive affirmation can be pretty empty and it’s easy for people to say ‘look on the bright side’ but it can feel like you are not being heard, and that can make people feel more alone.

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