About my book

About Other People’s Country

When writer Maureen Helen reached her fifties, she decided she wanted to do something a little different. Spurred by an adventure in Thailand, she resolved to use her skills to work as a remote area nurse on an isolated Aboriginal community in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

Faced with the appalling health problems of the community and a growing sense that she didn’t belong, Maureen battled her own crisis of confidence. At the same time, she battled the harshness and hostility of her surroundings. She struggled to adjust to a culture where she was the outsider.

This finely judged piece of writing offers penetrating insights into the cultural clash between Aboriginal and White Australia. As well it takes a cool look at the naarrator’s own moral compass when faced with a frequently demanding and sometimes frightening existence well outside her comfort zone.

Unsentimental, compelling and moving, this book will take you deep into the heart of the Australian outback.

Other People’s Country was a finalist in the Non Fiction Book Award section of the Walkley Awards for Excellence in Journalism, 2008.

Also shortlisted in the Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards (WA History Section, 2008)

Publication and purchase details

First published by ABC Books (2008), Other People’s Country has been reprinted by Stone’s Publishing. It is available through Stone’s Publishing Bookstore and as an ebook through Amazon.

Reviews of Other People’s Country

‘Engrossing description of the challenges faced by the author during her ‘adventure’, providing nursing care to a remote Aboriginal community in Western Australia. Fascinating insight that doesn’t pretend to have an easy solution to the problems that are faced by individuals and governments trying to provide assistance to remote communities.’


‘I don’t know how Maureen Helen managed to survive her first month in the Jigalong community in the Western Australian Pilbara region – as someone who has done on-call duty on a 2-person roster, I have no idea how you survive doing a month on-call all on your own among people who are either testing your limits or have no concept of “urgent” or “routine” medical issues!! I know I’d be much less patient than her if people were waking me up for a band-aid or because they took their last blood pressure tablet 3 days ago and want more in the middle of the night because they “think about it when [they] wake up in the night”!!

I’m also not sure how patient I could be with the cultural differences, but certainly not because I think my way is the only, or best, way of doing things, and there are things that the Martu people of the Jigalong community sound like they do better than we white people do. But the slower pace would frustrate me when there’s so much stuff to be done. And yet, rushing people can end up in not achieving what you were hoping for anyway, so perhaps it’s better to just take a deep breath and try to fit in with the local culture. But I definitely don’t agree with the practice of blaming the nurse for a patient’s death regardless of what he/she did or didn’t do and potentially running the nurse out of town.

This was very much an eye-opening and well-written read ‘


Any one of the true stories in Maureen Helen’s memoir could be enacted as a thrilling drama, often a matter of life and death. But this is real life for Maureen and she has the ultimate responsibility of ensuring the best health care possible even when the patient’s life is not always the highest priority compared with enormously important cultural obligations of the Jigalong Martu population
I became more and more compelled by Maureen’s story. As a memoir, it is a story of perserverance, determination and self revelation and as a social history it conveys the difficulties and possibilities in the interaction of two cultures.


I couldn’t put Maureen Helen’s memoir of her time at Jigalong down. Her stories show immense courage and strength and provide honest, soul searching insights as Maureen navigated her way in a community and culture far removed from anything she had previously experienced.