When June Andrew rattled into Marree in her Ford Laser in the heat of the 1982 summer, it was the first time she had visited the remote South Australian town.
“There were dust storms the first week, about 150 people were living here and before I got the job, I had never even heard of Marree - I had to look it up on the map,” the much-loved Remote Area Nurse said with a laugh.
Now, 39 years later, ‘Sister June’ is preparing to retire after decades of nursing from the isolated Flying Doctor clinic based 589 kilometres north of Adelaide at the junction of the Oodnadatta and Birdsville Tracks.
Not only has she administered flu injections, conducted regular health check-ups and even delivered a baby at the Marree Health Service, Sister June is integral to the community in which she opens and maintains the local swimming pool, runs the darts club and heads up the tennis club.
She has been fire captain of the Country Fire Service, a member of the Marree Progress Association, the Marree Race Club, she runs a cinema on Saturdays in the town's youth centre and has helped organise a variety of bronco branding events, camp drafts and gymkhanas over the years.
“When I first arrived at the nursing clinic, we had a lot of kids coming in with runny ears," Sister June said. "We started a Vitamin C program and that really helped - it’s been great to actually get people coming to the clinic regularly so we can now work more on being proactive.
“I’ve also worked on a lot of women’s health programs and we used to have an Aboriginal Well Women’s Project.”
The Marree Health Service is now staffed by two Remote Area Nurses who provide primary health care, home visiting, referrals, 24-hour medical consultations and 4WD emergency ambulance services.
The clinic also delivers primary and preventative health programs such as oral health, chronic disease management and mental health care as an extension to the RFDS Primary Health Care Service.