Five Minutes with Deb Hunt
English born Deb Hunt has been a librarian, teacher, event manager, PR executive, actress and journalist. She has worked with Shakespeare in the Park in London, Australian House & Garden magazine in Sydney and for the past five years as a writer with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Her memoir, Love in the Outback, reveals Deb’s experience of discovering an unimagined land and true love far from the green fields of home. Her latest book, Australian Farming Families explores what it is that binds Australians to the land. Travelling tens of thousands of kilometres, Deb met farming families who are challenged every day by the weather, economic ups and downs and isolation and yet remain passionate and determined.
Deb is joining us at the 2016 Batemans Bay Writers Festival in September. We spent five minutes with Deb to find out a little more about her.
The summary of your 2014 memoir, Love in the Outback, goes along these lines: “The true story of a tree-hugging vegetarian from a small English village who gave up a job she hated, stopped stalking a man who wasn’t interested and moved to Australia to work for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.” What were some of the culture shock moments in that transition that make you laugh now?
I had so much to learn about the Outback. A single property in Australia can be the size of several English counties so it can take a couple of hours to drive across. I could never admit that I used to stop for a nap mid-way through a two-hour drive in England. That was considered a long way! I remember one time I found a mouse at home in Broken Hill so I captured it, thinking I might keep it as a pet or maybe release it. Then I heard about an epic plague of mice causing havoc in town, so I kept very quiet about the one I’d tried to save. And until I lived in Broken Hill I’d never heard of anyone having all their teeth removed when they got married. Apparently it saves having to visit a dentist.
Before you came to Australia, did you have any idea of what the RFDS was and how important it was to outback life?
My only understanding of the RFDS was through watching that old TV series about the Flying Doctor from the 1970s and I’ve learnt so much since about the incredible work they do. I fully appreciate that tyranny of distance now, which is an ever-present threat in the Outback. I had no idea how vital the service is for survival in rural and remote areas.
Your experiences in rural Australia have also led to a collection of true stories called Australian Farming Families. Is it possible to sum up what you learned from them about life on the land?
I learnt it takes grit and determination to be a farmer in Australia. It’s not a question of if disaster strike, it’s when. Farmers, graziers and pastoralists cope with drought, fire, flood, debt, disease and the invasion of pests on a regular basis. Add to that the lack of schools, hospitals, dentists, libraries, shops, mechanics and all the other services the rest of us take for granted and you begin to understand how hard it is to operate in a remote area. Yet the people I interviewed wouldn’t live anywhere else; they’re passionate about what they do.
Where to next with your writing? Are you sticking with non-fiction or is there a novel lurking in there?
I love non-fiction but I’ve always been an avid reader of fiction so right now I’m exploring an idea for a novel – set in the Outback of course!
We’re so looking forward to welcoming you to the 2016 Batemans Bay Writers Festival. But what are you looking forward to when you visit in September?
You’ve got a great line-up of speakers so I’m looking forward to hearing as many as I can. Tim Fischer was influential during his time as Chairman of the RFDS so I’m really looking forward to hearing what he’s got to say. And I’ve heard the coastline around Bateman’s Bay is spectacular.
Meet Deb at the following events:
Saturday September 10: Time 3 pm to 4 pm
Deb Hunt (Love in the Outback and Australian Farming Families) talks with Ian Campbell about the important role the RFDS plays on outback life.
Saturday September 10: Time 5.30 pm for 6pm to 7 pm
4 X 5 minutes
Four authors, four readings, four sets of literary trivia. Join us for drinks, trivia and book-readings. Authors Deb Hunt, Meredith Jaffé, Paul Hetherington and Rod Jones, give short readings from a work of their choice. In between, tease your brain with four sets of literary trivia. Prizes to be won.
Sunday September 11: Time: 9.30 am to 10.30 am
How does a writer distinguish memory from fact or determine truths long buried with their teller? Author Meredith Jaffé facilitates a lively discussion with Annabel Morley, Deb Hunt and Rod Jones.