Music and medicine: A story of two songs and two outback men

  • Dr Alan Tucker and Warren H. Williams
  • Dr Alan Tucker
Dr Cheryl Kerr-Dennis

In 2019 Dr Alan Tucker and country music superstar Warren H. Williams released, in Alice Springs, two special songs coinciding with the 90th anniversary of the Australian Royal Flying Doctor Service and “Doc” Tucker’s medical contribution, over 23 years, to remote Northern Territory communities.  Both men hold Central Australia’s sacred ground close to their hearts.

Golden Guitar winner and CAAMA music artist mentor Warren H. Williams’ peaceful country style perfectly complements the words of composer/songwriter Doc Tucker. The song “John Flynn’s Mob” is a touching tribute to Rev. John Flynn OBE, DD (1880-1951) and celebrates the 24 hour aeromedical remote area emergency and support services by the RFDS from their 16 bases, whereas the song “Back to Walungurru” is the true story of the Pintubi people of the Western Desert who were removed from their Homelands in the 1950s and ‘60s when missiles, from Woomera and Maralinga, endangered their country.  They returned home circa 1981.

Doc Tucker’s strong connection with the Pintubi people of Walungurru (Kintore), approximately 600 km west of Alice Springs, developed during his regular medical work there from 1996-2012. A remote kidney dialysis unit known as The Purple House was established there at Pintupi Homelands Health Service in 2004.  The unit is Indigenous-run and owned, and by 2019 had morphed into 17 other Central  Australian communities thanks to CEO Sarah Brown RN AM and her Board.

Doc Tucker worked with Remote Health Services  1994-2017 variously as a DMO (clinics and emergency retrievals) Alice Springs based,  MO at RFDS Yulara Medical Centre, Katherine based Remote Health/Air Medical Services (1994), and as an NT Remote Workforce Fly-In-Out, Drive-In-Out Doctor, doctoring overall in 56 communities.

Warren H. Williams, an Aranda family man, praises the RFDS for their life-saving aeromedical evacuation of him from Tennant Creek some years ago. Born in Hermannsberg, he has won multiple country music scene awards including 2004 Male Indigenous NT Artist, 2005 Most Popular Song by Indigenous Artist, 2006 NAIDOC “Artist of the Year”, and the 2008 Red Ochre Award. He also produced the 2007 musical “The Magic Coolamon” and was inducted into “The Hands of Fame” Tamworth.

Doc Tucker, from generations of Devonian farmers and a father who “jackarooed” in Narrabri and Albury in the 1920s, graduated from London University in 1961 and for three decades provided clinical, teaching, mentoring and research services in the UK, Tasmania, and the Middle East, before starting Outback work in the NT in 1994.  There he experienced his first aeromedical retrievals in Nomad Aircraft (prior to King Air and Pilates becoming regular retrievers). His qualifications and awards include: MBBS (Lond) 1961; DCH 1964; DPH 1966; DRCOG1965; FRACGP 1976; Friend of the Tasmanian Faculty Medal 2016; FAFPHM 1991 (Foundation Fellow) and Life Fellow since 2006; FFPH (UK) 2006; Awarded Fellowship of Royal Colleges of Physicians (Public Health) 2006.

In 1979 he also composed words and music for a classic anthem “To You Tasmania” recorded by the 6th Military District Band and the Hobart Orpheus Choir.  This song was musically reinterpreted by the famous American a cappella group “The Exchange” and with scenic video enhancement released through Discover Tasmania as a Tasmanian Tourism promotion product following its premiere performance at the Festival of Voices 2015. 

Warren’s music, recordings and achievements are legendary.  Doctor Alan Tucker last worked in Remote Australia in his 81st year (2017) as a “Doctor in the Desert”. 


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