The country town of Goondiwindi sprawls about 300 kilometres south-west of Brisbane, inland on the border of NSW and Queensland. Surrounded by farmland and the Macintyre River, the agricultural district houses a population of about 11,000 people.
Boasting all the amenities one could wish for, it’s rich on lifestyle but low on the drawbacks of city life. A quick chat with Dr Matt and Dr Sue Masel uncovers why Goondiwindi offers the ultimate lifestyle/work combo for GPs.
Greater connection to community
One of the biggest misconceptions about going rural is the idea of being alone. Conversely, one of the greatest rewards of living and working in Goondiwindi is being part of a community, Matt says.
“I like having a role in the community, getting to know my patients in a deeper sort of way,” he shares. “Being a member of the same community gives me a better understanding of my patients and what they’re going through.”
Sue agrees: “I went out for coffee yesterday. Between where I parked the car and the coffee shop, I would have said hello by name to about twenty people.”
Rewards of generalist work
A typical day for Matt starts around 8am with a ward round of public and private patients, followed by consulting with patients at the Medical Centre.
“On occasion we may do a full day at the hospital seeing emergency department patients. You do everything from minor cuts and fractures to car accidents to women having babies to mental health emergencies. “We look after all people with whatever problems they have. That’s very rewarding.”
“This kind of work is the reason most people did medicine when they first joined up,” Sue adds.
Hone your skills in a supportive environment
In 2016, Sue was awarded the Telstra Health RDAA Rural Doctor of the Year Award. The award recognised not only her contribution to the health of her community but her work in support of rural doctors.
Both Sue and Matt are accredited general practice supervisors. “There’s five GPs at our practice who are GP supervisors,” Sue says. “There are always senior doctors who will oversee and involve them [trainees] as appropriate.”
“Believe that you will be supported. You will have the best chance of your career to spread your wings and try out your skills in a really supportive environment. When people come and try it for 10-week Medical Officer term they will often come back or go to another rural term somewhere.”
Wonderful environment for children and families
According to Sue, another upside of rural life has been the ability to raise her children in a freer, outdoor lifestyle reminiscent of the seventies. Not only do the family visit regularly, but her children’s cousins request to stay every school holidays.
“They love it,” Sue says. “In summer they swim in the river all day. In winter they jump on the trampoline and ride their bikes, and do the kinds of things that I did in the seventies in Brisbane when I was growing up and we could run wild.”
Lots of things to do
Breaking another misconception about regional towns as having nothing to do – Sue emphasises that “the lifestyle is wonderful.”
“Some of my Brisbane friends actually come out here to go shopping,” she reveals. “We’ve got really excellent shoe shops and several really nice boutique dress shops. And, more cafes than you can poke a stick at.”
“Sitting here, we’re looking over the Macintyre river,” Matt adds. The couple own a home overlooking the water. “There’s a lot of fishing and boating. More vigorous things like water skiing are done on a designed water park [the Natural Heritage & Water Park] on the edge of town. And then we have a more sedate, calmer lake [Lake Coolmunda] that’s on the other side of town where the botanic gardens are.”
The joy of small town living
Enthusing about the lack of traffic, air pollution and parking issues, Matt and Sue thrive on the laid-back lifestyle.
“I like the compactness of it,” Matt explains further. “The town’s got everything we need. It’s got medical services, several schools, great sporting facilities, theatre, cinema, restaurants, events, and a variety of cuisines. And, I really just like living close to work. I come home for lunch. It’s a five to ten-minute drive.”
“We’re very happy here,” he concludes.