I had a yarn with my good mate Andrew “Robbo” Robertson aka @BiteTheDust over the Christmas break just before he flew out of the country for a few months.
In September 2015, Robbo was named the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Pharmacist of the Year for 2015. Robbo has worked for the last ten years as a remote pharmacist in the vast Ngaanyatjarra Lands of Western Australia adjoining the NT and South Australian borders and is a tireless advocate for improvements in Aboriginal health.
At the time of his induction he said that his: ” … biggest thanks go to the people of the Ngaanyatjarra Lands for welcoming me on to their lands and into their lives for over 10 years. I hope this award increases the recognition of the need for pharmacists to be working as part of the health care team for our remote Indigenous Australians.”
The Northern Myth: Tell readers about yourself in ten words.
Robbo: A ten word biography? Desert, bush, medication, literacy, best-practice, education … Dingo, four-wheel drive.
TNM: What makes you happy?
R: Coming out of the bush and having someone make me a fresh coffee that I haven’t had to make myself.
TNM: What makes you angry?
R: The sheer waste you see and the blame-shifting by whitefellas buggering up indigenous organisations.
TNM: Cats, dogs, both or neither?
R: Dogs. The less said about cats the better.
TNM: Sunday morning music?
R: I don’t really listen to music much but out bush where I am you get the church going or some locals playing music somewhere in the community. There is always music in the bush.
TNM: Your Desert Island disc?
R: There are a few bits of music that I always associate with certain things that happen in the past, so some of the old seventies songs, a bit of old Skyhooks or pretty much anything by Madness …
TNM: Where do we go when we are dead?
R: In the ground.
TNM: What do you sing in the shower?
R: Nothing. I’m not a singing person.
TNM: When did you last break the law?
R: Yesterday when I did a u-bolt outside your place without putting the indicators on (laughs) and usually every time I come into town because out bush you don’t worry about white lines or indicators.
TNM: Top-loader or front-loader?
R: Top-loader – out bush that’s all there is!
TNM: Most treasured possession?
R: Well I couldn’t count Girl (my Dingo dog) as a possession. Can’t really answer that one …
TNM: Pen or pencil?
R: Pen! I love a fountain pen. I’m left-handed and I’m a shocking writer so at least it makes me try and have hand-writing that is legible.
TNM: What are you reading in non-fiction?
R: Not much at the moment, all my stuff is packed up. The last book I was caught reading was just released about the life and works of the artists from Wanarn Aged Care called The Wanarn Painters of Place and Time: Old Age Travels in the Tjukurrpa made with the assistance of the arts centre from Warakuna. Some great old artists from the lands have ended up at the aged care centre, including Dr. Mary McLean who is now a West Australian Living Treasure. She doesn’t paint anymore but she is a renowned artist who lived in Kalgoorlie for a number of years and moved back out to country to stop at the Wanarn Aged Care facility.
TNM: What about fiction?
R: Yeah, I’ve been churning through a lot of books. I didn’t read much for ages but I’ve been reading some nasty and forgettable crime fiction recently. Not much of any substance for a while.
Photo: Robbo with his Dingo dog Girl and Pharmacy Guild National President George Tambassis at Wanarn Clinic.
PS: I conducted a longer interview with Robbo in which he reflects on his life in the Ngaanyatjarra Lands and more. Watch out for that … you can catch up with Robbo on Twitter at @ and see more about his life and work in the Ngaanyatjarra lands at his blog, Biting The Dust.