Flying vet Libby Harriman is the principal vet at a very busy Hughenden practice. 

Story Kirsty McKenzie  Photos Ken Brass

Libby Harriman has one hand on the wheel of her Toyota HiLux and the other shading her eyes from the near-blinding glare of the setting sun. She’s navigating her way along the single-track dirt station road back to the highway that will take her to Hughenden, her home base in north-western Queensland. “Sorry if the ride’s a bit rough,” she says. “I’m kind of guessing where the road is at the moment.” 

Apart from the odd bump, the trip back to town is incident-free, but it has added urgency as Libby has to make it to the airport to load the Cessna 206 she will be flying at first light for a clinic in Georgetown, 500km away in the Gulf. As the principal vet at the Great Artesian Veterinary Surgery, Libby is no stranger to early mornings and late nights. Her practice spans a swathe of northern Queensland equivalent in size to France as she and her team of vets, veterinary nurses and admin staff crisscross the bush providing top-level care to animals and their owners. “The sunrises and sunsets make it all worthwhile,” she says. “I know I’m lucky to live and work in this country, so I don’t want to count the hours I put in. I don’t like to leave home before 5am and I try to be back so I can see the kids before they go to bed. It’s not like when I was young and single, and I worked all the hours that were available. Now I draw the line at 14 hours, as I understand that working like that is not sustainable or safe.”

Wherever you go in central and northern Queensland, everyone offers glowing testimonials for the flying vet. It seems there’s not a cat, dog, sheep or canary in a vast area of the state that hasn’t received her ministrations.


This story excerpt is from Issue #146

Outback Magazine: December/January 2023