A weekend in Darwin

A weekend in Darwin

I travelled to Darwin on Wednesday for meetings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. On Wednesday afternoon when I arrived I was interviewed by the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s (ABC) Mick Coggan on my memories from ten years ago and what has happened in my career since then. This Friday, 12 October, we will remember the people killed and the people injured after terrorists detonated bombs in Bali. I hope on Friday I will blog about my memories from 10 years ago.

The interview was aired on television and radio over the Thursday and Friday morning. I also did a live radio interview with Pete Davies from Darwin Mix 104.9 radio station.

I’ve not seen nor listened to any of the recordings. I’ve been told by work mates, my parents and friends on Twitter that I came across okay.

On the Thursday I co-chaired a national governments meeting which went well. It was held at the Royal Darwin Hospital. My old hospital from 1996 to 2007. Whenever I visit the RDH I soak in the atmosphere and the changes. I love that hospital.

I was also in Darwin for the War and Disaster 2012 conference. The meeting consisted of a dinner on Thursday night, a clinical teaching symposium on Friday and a clinical conference on Saturday. On the Saturday afternoon a public forum had also been planned. I attended all the functions.

On the Wednesday evening however, I took my work colleagues to the Hanuman restaurant in Mitchell Street. This is a famous restaurant in Darwin known for its fusion of Thai, Indian and Chinese cuisines. Its signature dish is the Hanuman oysters. I suggested we enjoy the oysters, Pandang chicken, red curry duck, a whole fish and some Chinese pork belly. My colleagues and I really enjoyed the meal. The lighting in the restaurant is not conducive to photography with an iPhone so I have not posted any high quality images here (just a poor image of the oysters and the fish). The oysters are always good. They are done in a multi-welled terracotta dish with little terracotta lids over each well. The oysters are steamed in lime, lemon grass and coriander. If you ever venture to Darwin and dine at the Hanuman I will always recommend the Hanuman oysters.

Hanuman oysters

This was the fish after we had finished. Yes I ate the eyes. I did it discretely to not upset my work mates.

The Thursday dinner was held in the Darwin Convention Centre (if you use iOS6 Apple maps will send you to the wrong place) in the Darwin Waterfront Precinct. We enjoyed speeches by the new Chief Minister, Mr Terry Mills and former Prime Minister, Mr John Howard, OM AC. We were entertained by Kamahl. My friend Robyn Cahill also sang. Previously at a RDH review Robyn coaxed me and some other senior clinicians onto a stage to do YMCA. Unfortunately photographs recently surfaced. I will not be posting them here. If you’re curious I was the Native American.

The dinner itself was very good. We enjoyed a mixed cold entrée of salmon, chicken and beef. For a main meal I was fortunate enough to enjoy an incredibly well cooked rib eye fillet steak. Dessert was a mix of small and light pastries which were delightful. By the end I was hanging out for a cup of tea.

On Friday the clinical symposium was held at the RDH in the auditorium. I hadn’t been in there for years. I had forgotten the place had virtually no 3G signal. I was without communication with the office which wasn’t good. The symposium itself was excellent. I learnt so much. It was good to be immersed in a clinical milieu. I felt at home not only because I was in Darwin at RDH but because I was sitting amongst clinicians. I understood what was being put up on the screen. I didn’t doubt myself and have to question myself like I do when seated in policy presentations or budget discussions. Having just spent five years in my current job it was remarkable how comfortable and happy I felt being surrounded by clinical discussion and thinking.

At lunch time I did something I haven’t done for more than five years. In 2003 I weighed about 100 kilograms. I was very heavy for my height. I decided I needed to lose weight rapidly so I could begin exercising again. I chose a high protein and low carbohydrate way of life. My lunches often consisted of meat, just meat alone. On Friday I lined up at the hospital canteen and asked for a small serving of pork belly. I used to do that every day. I’m the sort of person who enjoys repeating old habits. I like nostalgia. This made me happy.

A small serving of pork belly to relive old memories when I lost a lot of weight.

That evening after a very stimulating day I attended a reception at the NT’s Parliament House for the opening of a small photographic art exhibition to remember the ten years since the Bali bombings. As far as formal receptions go it was pretty good. The nice thing about Darwin is the recognition that the usual formalities can be modified. The appropriate attire for such an event in the presence of the NT Minister for Health is Territory Rig. That is long trousers, a long sleeve shirt and a neck tie. Very simple. Unfortunately the Governor of Bali could not be present. The exhibition was opened by Hon. David Tollner and Dr Wayan Sutarga the President Director of Sanglah Hospital. Dr Sutarga is a real character. He was in charge of the hospital for the first and second Bali bombings. He has done an enormous amount of work for the hospital and has worked with Australians like Dr Len Notaras, AM and Colin McDonald, QC to cement a strong bond between Darwin and Bali.

After the reception I had a hankering for some fish and chips. I wanted Barramundi.

Barra and chips

The Saturday clinical conference was held at the Darwin Conference Centre, it was a long day. We registered at 0745 ACST and didn’t finish until after 1800 ACST. It was a very good day. Many of my friends presented. Some relived the events of ten years ago and others looked at changes in their specialty areas. Given I had moved from the NT government to the Australian Government I presented the changes that had occurred in the Department of Health and Ageing and how we have evolved into a better prepared area for health protection matters.

I got in early and captured this image before all the seats filled up.

The afternoon’s public forum was inspiring. Julian Burton, OAM spoke about his experiences as a victim of the Bali bombings. Sally Sara, AM spoke about being an ABC journalist in war zones and gave her perspective on the importance of telling stories so that Australia as a nation can know what is happening in places where reporting is not encouraged and journalists are often in danger by the kinetic forces of war.

On Saturday night I was invited to dinner by Len Notaras to Char Restaurant at Admiralty House on the corner of Knuckey Street and The Esplanade. I’d eaten here once before for a work related lunch. The venue is delightful. The food is sublime. The lighting was good but the group I was with didn’t really allow for me to whip out my iPhone and capture food images. I admit, I haven’t really come out to this group of friends that I am an amateur food blogger.

At present I’m in Adelaide waiting for a flight to Canberra. I love visiting Darwin and catching up with friends. I love Darwin. If you’ve never been there you should visit and stay for a while.

A park in the waterfront precinct just before arriving at the convention centre.

Conference lunch

My lunch on the flight flying from Darwin to Adelaide.


12 thoughts on “A weekend in Darwin

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  5. Sounds like a very interesting conference, and I agree with you that sometimes it feels really good to be sitting and listening, and catching up with the latest research.

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  7. Excellent post! It sounds like a very interesting interview.
    Love the conference lunch! Wow! All the food looks delicious. I have to say I love the fish and chips!

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