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Angels of Augustus: Pioneers of the Living Inland

Elk & Ice Books (Noosaville) 2006
RRP: $29.95

Most of us take for granted health services that are readily available. But back in the 1940s there were still immense areas of this continent had no ready access to basic health or medical services.

The Flying Doctor Service was still in its infancy, and bush nurses and hospitals were few and far between.

Two young women had a vision supported by their church to make a difference in this critical situation.

Armed only with their training (both medical and theological) and a converted Ford ambulance nicknamed ‘Augustus’, Marjorie Wilkinson and Ethel Helyar, two nursing deaconesses, set out to base themselves in Brewarrina to cover a huge tract of outback NSW and Queensland, to provide free health and pastoral care to all in need through the first Methodist Nursing Service.

Angels of Augustus, their story as told by one of their daughters, is very readable.

There’s heaps of humour as only the bush can bring, but that’s only part of what is a lively narrative of the heart warming and heartbreaking experiences of these nursing pioneers.

The way these two women adapted to their isolated situation and overcame the various hindrances to the acceptance of their service has really inspired me in the work that I’m involved in with Frontier Services.

I believe Angels of Augustus will play a unique and important part in the understanding of our outback social and medical heritage, as well as the outback lifestyle with all its ups and downs.

Reviewed by Peter Harvey Frontier Services – Flinders Patrol