Farewell, Broome.

Dear Broome,

It would feel unfinished, I think, to move on to one adventure without properly farewelling the last. And yeah yeah, I know…. My departure has had as many comebacks as a John Farnham farewell tour. But this time I’ve really gone for good.

I remember when we first met. I was absolutely blown away by the outrageousness of your colours; the turquoise blue of Roebuck Bay, the white of Cable Beach, the unapologetic boldness of the red rocks at Gantheaume. You seduced me with your beauty and convinced me to stay for a while.

As time went by I got to know all the different sides of your personality. I felt the oppressive heat of the build up, saw epic lightning storms roll in from the east, and sat on my back porch watching the tides go in and out and in and out and in again. I sheltered inside, hiding from your cyclonic fury three times in the space of a month. I waded shin-deep through the floodwaters that turned you into an island.

It was hard at first. I had to abandon any ambitions of nice hair in summer and embrace Eau de Bushman as my perfume. But it got easier. I learned that the blazing sunset skies were worth every drop of sweat.


Broome, you have a dream-like quality about you. Being a 2 hour plane trip and 15 C away from the nearest city made it feel like living in a bubble. The “real world” refers to somewhere else. Days and years pass without it feeling like any time at all. Time seems to work differently with you.

You gave me a Broome family, when my own was far far away. I loved seeing familiar faces everywhere I went and always having someone to hang out with for this or that event. I was grateful that a helping hand, sage advice or rescue from calamity was never far away. The kindness of strangers never failed to impress me. The friendships forged on your shores will last a lifetime.

I feel so lucky to have been part of such a multicultural melting pot. My Kiwi, Filipino, Japanese, Indonesian, Thai, French & Irish neighbours fed me the best coffee, the most delicious food and nourished my soul with their stories and their culture. And above all, my life was enriched by my Indigenous brothers, sisters, aunties and uncles. It was a privilege to stop for a while on Yawuru country, to get to know you through the eyes and hearts of those who have loved you for aeons.

You also challenged me. You showed me an extreme contrast between wealth and poverty. You opened my eyes and made me see the effects of inter-generational trauma, cultural displacement, violence, alcohol abuse and homelessness. You broke my heart over and over and over. You made me confront my own enormous privilege. You made me more determined to treat every single human with kindness and compassion.

You also gave me an opportunity to help in what small way I could. Those emergency department night shifts were so hard, when the bays were filled with people with broken souls and broken bodies lashing out at the nearest easy target, while the RFDS planes kept landing and unloading their unbelievably sick cargo. Sometimes it felt like an epic battle against the woes of the world. We had plenty of wins, and the occasional crushing loss, but we kept fighting regardless.


You gave me the most incredible learning experience. You showed me wacky tropical infections, advanced pathology of every system, chronic complex multi-comorbidity and SO. MUCH. PUS. I got to see old fashioned diseases that barely exist elsewhere in the world, like rheumatic fever and syphilis. My obstetric patients were the most medically and socially complex that I’ve ever seen.

So I did things I never thought I’d do, like manage a HDU full of patients on pressors, contain the floridly psychotic patient screaming the place down, ultrasound nearly every part of the human anatomy, diagnose a tension pneumothorax in the CT scanner (*ahem*) and then decompress it with a finger thoracostomy (WOOO!!!).

But, you gifted me with the most amazing colleagues I could ever hope to have. Even though I felt out of my depth at times, I was secure in the knowledge that some incredibly skilled doctors, nurses and midwives always had my back. It is these fine people that I will miss the most.


I’ve changed in many ways since I met you. I became the kind of person that cycles 700km along a dirt road with a bunch of crazy friends. You put a pheasant coucal in front of me, and I became a nerdy bird watcher. I became the owner of a massive four-wheel drive to explore your beaches, rocks and rivers. I even finally learned to play the guitar, after many years of procrastination. I’ve added many more strings to my bow as a doctor and a person.

And eventually, you told me it was time to go.

Although our time together has come to an end, the red dust has gotten well and truly into my skin and will never be scrubbed off.

Farewell, Broome. I hope we will meet again some day.

Love always, Penny


3 thoughts on “Farewell, Broome.

  1. Penny, wow. I can’t begin to imagine the depth of the experiences you’ve had whilst in Broome. It must feel quite surreal to be saying goodbye but it looks like you have some amazing memories that will carry you forward.

  2. Hi Penny,

    My name is Lydia Dunford and I am going to be a final year medical student in 2021, and am based in Wellington in New Zealand. Your blog is a fascinating read (I was put onto it by my uncle John Geddes who used to work in WA in geriatrics). I am very interested in your work in Broome, particularly in general practice and indigenous health. I realised you are now based in Canada but I am wondering whether you would have any contacts for me to get in touch with as an elective student for August to November of 2021?

    My email is andly557@student.otago.ac.nz and I would love to hear your insights and suggestions.

    Kind regards,

    Lydia Dunford

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