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Caring for the Cohuna community sees OAM for Peter Barker

By Sophie Baldwin

PETER Barker has been caring for the Cohuna community for more than 40 years.

Starting out as a doctor at Box Hill in 1980, Peter moved to Cohuna in 1983 initially to work for six months.

Four decades later he remains in the country town that captured his heart.

Not only is he a much-loved and respected doctor, he has become an advocate for the town and the face behind many campaigns including the now infamous day he dressed up in a penguin suit to raise some funds for the hospital after Victorian Government set aside $250,000 for penguins.

Peter refused to remain silent when the government tried to take away the obstetrics department from the Cohuna hospital and more recently he has become involved in a fight to save the town swimming pool.

Being a doctor in a small country town has turned into so more much than just practising medicine for Peter.

He said he was honoured to have received an OAM.

“To receive an award like this for doing something I love is very humbling,” Peter said.

“I might pull it out on a few special occasions but nothing much will change from me. I will continue to give what I get in Cohuna - corny jokes, care, respect and if needed a hand in the night or someone to stand by you.”

Peter also paid tribute to his wife Shirlene and three daughters Kelsey, Holly and Tess who have all shared the rollercoaster of this busy country doctor’s life.

“They have seen the highs and lows of it all but I can honestly say it hasn’t been boring for me or them either,” he laughed.

Peter said working with doctors, nurses and staff at the Cohuna Clinic and the hospital allowed him to achieve things he never could have done on his own.

“That is the beauty of life in a country town everyone supports one another and together we can achieve more than we could ever do alone,” he said.

Peter said that when he first moved to Cohuna he was mentored by doctor Peter Graham and it didn’t take long for him to be made aware of how under-resourced country towns were.

“When I came to Cohuna, Dr Graham was swinging the axe about the lack of resources in our town so I learnt from one of the best,” Peter said.

To make up for the gap Peter studied anesthetics, obstetrics, dermatology and cradle to grave country medicine.

“I can honestly say there has never been a boring day and it has been the greatest gift to be able to help so many people - there is nothing quite like the satisfaction of making a person's life better,” Peter said.

Still fit and healthy and full of energy, Peter has many great years of medicine still ahead of him.

“It seems hard work and problem solving don’t wear you out, or maybe I am just lucky,” he laughed.

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