The incredible story of doctors Apollonia Lobo and Blaise Braganza has been added to the walls of Forbes Medical Centre as part of this year’s Discovering Our Doctors project and Forbes Heritage 2018.
Dr Lobo and the couple’s daughter Chantal returned to Forbes last Thursday night for the unveiling of the panel, and tribute was paid to Dr Braganza who passed away in September 2016.
The night provided an opportunity for Dr Lobo to reflect on the family’s transition from “displaced outsiders to locals” after they moved here in 1973.
“We are so grateful for 27 years of welcome: friendship, family. You’ve provided us a home here, a safe haven,” she said.
Judging from the response of the capacity audience eager to reunite with the visitors, the Forbes community also wished to express gratitude to and honour this couple who had served “with passion and compassion”.
“Our years in Forbes and Forbes District Hospital were enriching, deeply sad occasionally and at other times downright hilarious,” Dr Lobo said.
“While those memories remain dear, also noteworthy was the unshakable spirit of the people of Forbes.
“Despite how hard things may have been for some, they got up, dusted themselves off and carried on.”
The doctor recalled how “it seemed the entire town rallied” when the closure of Forbes Hospital was threatened.
The community went to the media and all eyes focussed on the town and its need for medical services.
“The authorities eventually relented,” Dr Lobo said. “Our hospital was saved, it was a remarkable achievement.”
The story of the Braganzas’ arrival in Forbes is unique: the two doctors were stateless in Nairobi when news came through that the community of Forbes, in rural Australia, had need of more doctors and the family would be safe and welcome there.
Wal Williams on Thursday night explained how Forbes Municipal Council had sent the message through the Kenyan High Commission after the devastating impact of unrest in Uganda had reached our television sets.
Forbes’ four or five doctors were run off their feet, he recalled, and local efforts to recruit had fallen short. They realised doctors may be affected by the Ugandan crisis, and reached out.
The Braganzas, who had worked in East Africa for 12 years, responded.
“Months later, we got a reply saying that there was a husband and wife doctor couple who were interested in coming to Forbes,” Mr Williams said.
“Council said great, please come. But all went quiet.”
The community was wondering whether their doctors had been caught up in the conflict when Mr Williams received a phone call, on a Saturday morning, to say they had arrived at a local real estate agent.
“The doctors had turned up overnight, from Sydney, on the Forbes mail, with a child, a six-week-old baby and two suitcases,” he recalled.
The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
“The people of Forbes were welcoming and generous,” the panel – researched and designed by Kerry Neaylon – records.
“Neighbours quickly became friends and brought gifts of clothing for the children and food, which were received with gratitude.
“The friendliness and generosity of the people made a deep impression on the family.”
The doctors made the difficult decision to relocate from Forbes to Perth in 1999 and the community filled Town Hall for their farewell.
On Thursday night long-time friends Jan Martin, Father Barry Dwyer and Dr Untung Laksito shared their memories.
Read more: Our nurses’ stories
The information in this article is based on the presentations given on the night and the content of the panels, researched by Kerry Neaylon for Forbes Medical Centre.
Far more information is included on the panels.