10 May 2023

Cooktown doctor named a Legend of the Bush

| Matt Nicholls
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Outgoing RDAQ president Dr Michael Reinke presents Dr Tash Coventry with her Legend of the Bush award.

COOKTOWN’S Tash Coventry has been named a Legend of the Bush by her colleagues at the Rural Doctors Association of Queensland.

It’s a fitting title, too.

Dr Coventry has been a pillar of the local hospital and has raised four children with husband Justin in the community.

She’s been here for so long that when she first made the trip to Cooktown the road wasn’t even sealed all the way.

But she’s called the hospital and the town home for the best part of two decades and has loved just about every minute.

“I really do feel very humbled to accept this award,” Dr Coventry said at the RDAQ ceremony in Gladstone.

“It is such a privilege to work in a rural community, that’s where we get our energy from – the people who we look after.

“I do hope that, in my own head, I will still live up to this in 20 years from now when I’m feeling ready to be a legend.”

Dr Coventry studied at the University of Queensland, electing to go to Cooktown throughout her undergraduate training, an experience that would influence her future career decisions and ultimately lead her to return to Cooktown permanently as a rural generalist.

She continues to practice procedural anaesthetics and is involved in building up Cooktown as an educational hub for rural generalist registrars and medical students.

Dr Coventry also led the medical team to be the second site in Australia to successfully restore birthing services after closure.

RDAQ president Matt Masel said Dr Coventry was known within the rural doctor family for her persistence, passion, and dedication.

“Tash is a shining example of how experience in rural medicine early on, can not only shape a career but generate a passion and affinity for being a doctor living and working in the bush,” Dr Masel said.

“She has definitely earned legend status and her humble acceptance speech is just another example as to why she is held in such high regard within the rural doctor community,” he said.

Dr Coventry told Cape York Weekly that an individual award was really the acknowledgment of a great team.

“I feel like this honour needs to be worn by all the nurses, health workers and admin staff who have made my journey so easy,” she said.

“I’m in the job I do because I love it, I have an amazingly supportive family, and I get to work with incredible people.

“Some might not stay as long as I have, but they have all been a contributor to my long career.”

A career as a rural generalist always looked on the cards for the girl from Gayndah, who won a prestigious John Flynn scholarship as a med student.

Dr Coventry lobbed in Cape York in 1998 and met her future husband Justin, a bus driver and tour guide.

She would also fall in love with rural medicine.

“A lot of students go overseas and do placements in third-world countries and that was something I was thinking of until I went to Cooktown and saw how much rural Australia needed doctors and health workers,” Dr Coventry said.

She paid tribute to former Cooktown doctor Marg Purcell.

“She remains one of my mentors – she was just so inspiring,” Dr Coventry said.

“When I was first working at Cooktown it was just the two of us and she was so good to me.”

Dr Coventry said she would encourage any young doctor to take a job in a rural community.

“It’s a satisfying job and you get more of a work-life balance than you would get if you worked in the city,” she said.

“We’ve got four kids and the best thing about Cooktown is that you’re always five minutes from home.”

Dr Coventry said an upgraded Cooktown Hospital was “long overdue” and hoped funding for the project would be backed by the state government.

“New hospitals reflect a growing community and we need to improve access to care closer to home,” she said.

“You want self-sufficiency and having an upgraded hospital will help Cooktown deliver more services.”

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