Dr Peter Barker from Cohuna is the recipient of the Peter Graham ‘Cohuna’ Award 2019, for his dedicated service to that Victorian rural community over many years.

The Peter Graham ‘Cohuna’ Award recognises rural doctors who have provided outstanding advocacy and medical service to their community.

It is awarded annually in memory of the late Dr Peter Graham, who served the Cohuna community for 48 years.

Dr Barker has been a Rural Generalist doctor in Cohuna for more than 35 years.
This Award is especially poignant for Dr Barker, given he worked closely with Dr Graham for two decades.

Like Dr Graham, he has been strongly committed to looking after the Cohuna community and maintaining procedural and birthing services there.

Dr Barker studied Medicine at Monash University from 1974 to 1979, before undertaking his intern years at Box Hill Hospital, and then training in Anaesthetics and Obstetrics in the UK.

He commenced practice at Cohuna in 1983.

Since that time, he has delivered over 2000 babies in Cohuna, and administered up to 5000 general anaesthetics for local surgical operations and procedures.

ACRRM President, Dr Ewen McPhee, said: “Peter is the consummate rural doctor and is highly deserving of the recognition this Award provides. He is extremely conscientious, showing genuine concern for his patients’ wellbeing across their lives and always working hard to improve access to quality medical care in Cohuna.”

“He was a key driver behind a community push in 2017 to ensure maternity services were retained in Cohuna, at a time when they were under serious threat of being bypassed – and, many feared, would ultimately be closed.”

“Somewhat infamously, he and his daughter Holly were also behind a ‘rural penguins campaign’ that drew support from thousands of people and saw Cohuna receive funding for a new cardiac defibrillator and anaesthetic machine.”

“A letter written by Peter to the local paper (and shared by Holly on Facebook) argued that the State Government had put $250,000 towards 1000 vulnerable penguins at the St Kilda Marina but had ignored repeated requests for the replacement of medical equipment at Cohuna Hospital. While Peter was supportive of funding for the penguins, he argued that those living in Cohuna deserved support too.”

“It is this passionate advocacy on behalf of his community that the late Dr Peter Graham is remembered for, and it is fitting that Dr Peter Barker is being recognised for this work too.”

RDAA President, Dr John Hall, also commended Dr Barker for his significant work in building and maintaining Cohuna’s local medical workforce, as well as the wide range of medical services provided locally to the community.

“Peter has been very active over many years in supervising and training medical students in Cohuna, and also in recruiting and retaining local GPs there” Dr Hall said.

“Through his efforts, he has improved the viability of the local hospital – and it is widely recognised that, without him, birthing services at Cohuna would have closed many years ago.”

“In addition to his general practice work, Peter has also provided extensive procedural and surgical services for the Cohuna community – saving local residents the substantial inconvenience and cost in having to travel to distant centres for this care.”

“He actively participates in Cohuna’s on-call roster, and is also on-call all of the time for trauma and obstetrics when he is in Cohuna (which is 48 weeks a year).”

“Since 2015, he has also been on the state emergency response team as Field Medical Officer for the coordination of the local emergency response in Cohuna, when required.”

“Peter’s dedication to the Cohuna community is nothing short of exceptional, and he is highly deserving of this special Award.”

Dr Barker said: “I am immensely honoured to receive this Award, particularly given it is presented annually in memory of a great colleague and friend, Dr Peter Graham.”

“Peter and I had a great working relationship over many years.”

“I loved that ‘Doc and Annie’ - as we called Peter and his wife - always welcomed visiting doctors for a meal and a shared wine. Doc would extract all the latest thoughts on new procedures and medications from you whilst he fed you fresh caught yabbies or a wild duck.”

“We always started the day with a ward round of all the patients in the hospital - a tradition I have continued.”

“It was always a time to back up your thoughts on patient management with a recent journal article or be challenged - and this remains a great teaching tradition for Cohuna.”

“I am immensely grateful that, 35 years ago, I chose Cohuna as the town in which to really begin my career in Rural Medicine. It is a great town, with great people, and I couldn’t have been any happier working as the local doctor here.”

Outside Medicine, Dr Barker has a wide range of interests, including running a small farm, growing pearls in the local Gunbower Creek and making jewellery, refurbishing old cars, flying small planes and – most importantly – spending time with his family.

A high resolution photo of Dr Barker is available here:

A high resolution photo of Dr Barker at last night’s gala dinner, with RDAA President Dr John Hall (far left in photo) and ACRRM President Dr Ewen McPhee (far right in photo) is available here:

Available for interview:
Dr Peter Barker
RDAA President, Dr John Hall
ACRRM President, Dr Ewen McPhee

Media contacts:
Patrick Daley (RDAA) on 0408 004 890
Petrina Smith (ACRRM) on 0414 820 847