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Rural Doctors Foundation

Lauren Furey

Lauren Furey, our Communications Officer, who shares stories of health, hope and tenacity. Read more.

5 minute read

Doctors are mums too: Meet Dr Sue Harrison

What’s in this article

Our real-life superheroes work tirelessly meeting the health needs of their neighbours and townsfolk, often before thinking of their own needs. They give us their dedication, compassion and hard-earned skills and knowledge, helping rural communities thrive.

Dr Sue Harrison is an award-winning doctor, a devoted university lecturer, and director on the Board at Rural Doctors Foundation. But first and foremost, she’s a proud mum, wife and grandma.

Speaking to her over the phone from Northern Victoria’s Echuca, her home for the last 40 years, I can hear a dog barking. Later in our chat she’ll chuckle and tell me the “noisy dog” belongs to her daughter – the age-old duty of dog-sitting that many a parent will know too well.

But before we get to that, I ask about her life and how her family would describe her. “I hope they’d describe me as a loving mother who is sometimes too busy,” says Sue.

It was the next question on my list: how a dedicated doctor that serves a rural community of fifteen thousand people manages the work-life juggle of parenthood.

“It had its challenges, but I was blessed with a very supportive husband who sacrificed some of his career so I could do my rural generalist work,” she explains. “Because he was a teacher, he was able to be with them outside of school hours and school holidays.”

Raising a family in Echuca

Sue and her husband had originally been sent to the Echuca area by the education department. She says she moved around rural Victoria a lot as a child, with her own father being a teacher too. So she knew Northern Victoria very well.

When I ask what she loves most about Echuca she says the weather. “The fact that we get different seasons, lots of sunshine.”

Sue and her husband had both gone to university in the city but wanted to go back out rural. “We were keen to leave the city to bring up a family, having both grown up as rural people.”

They were blessed with two daughters: Annie and Emily.

“They’re adults now. My eldest has got her own family, and my other one is a doctor. They’re both about two-hours away,” says Sue.

Like mother, like daughter

Sue has clearly had a positive influence on both of her children and is proud of their achievements.

She talks fondly of how her daughter, Annie, has managed motherhood and reinvigorated her career in Victoria after a stint away in rural Western Australia.

“Annie is an architect and she’s the mother to a nine-year-old and a three-year-old. One of the great joys in my life is spending time with my grandchildren,” she says. “Luckily, we live near enough by that I can do some emergency babysitting on occasion.”

Her other daughter, Emily, is a doctor too and shares Sue’s passion for rural health.

“I’m very proud of her engagement in rural health advocacy. Because she’s now on the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) Board and Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) Council, doing her bit.”

On being awarded the Order of Australia Medal

You wouldn’t know it unless you brought it up (such is her humble nature) but Sue was recently awarded an Order of Australia Medal for her services to rural medicine.

“I believe I was nominated for two things. One by community members here, for my career here in Echuca. But also for the engagement I have had in supporting doctors in training and medical students over the years, as well as my work with rural health advocacy through the RDAA and ACRRM.”

But an even prouder moment in Sue’s life could be the award she never actually won. She recounts the day many years ago when she received notice in the mail that someone had nominated her for Australian of the Year.

“I got a letter to say someone had nominated me.”

It turns out that person was one of her daughters, just a teenager at the time. When I ask Sue if she won, she says no with a chuckle, but you can tell it meant a lot.

Lauren Furey is Communications Officer at Rural Doctors Foundation. She understands the joys and challenges of living in a rural community and believes that all Australians, regardless of location, deserve access to high-quality health services.