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Talking Heads -

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(generated from captions) But that's not your real name. born, bred. My real name is John Knight, It's on my birth certificate. a long time ago, But a few years ago, of Dr James Wright. I was given the name a public figure If you were going to be you had to have some other name? and a doctor, Absolutely. another name, The law said you have to have

advertising otherwise you're considered and you could be deregistered. Now, 50 years, 50 years as a GP. but it's still and all, I know you've retired from this it's an extraordinary record. What kept you going so long? 51.5 years, actually. What kept me going? doing something, don't you? Well, you gotta earn a living But also, I just loved my work. all the other things which I did, Enjoyed doing it, plus as much as, or maybe more, which I probably enjoyed

and prodding tummies. than looking down sore throats stop you on the street Inevitably, people must the 30 second miracle cure. and want you to give A kerbside consultation. Absolutely, a K.C. if someone was nice enough My attitude was "G'day, how are you? Da da da. to come up and say, "Liked the show" or whatever.

to do that, And if they were nice enough "Nice to see you." I think you've got to stop, say,

you can diagnose them, And in 30 seconds, they go off happy you can treat them,

that's how I used to regard it. and you've made another friend, of a smile, a bit of a laugh. Never knock 'em, always had a bit where all this energy got its start. Let's see OK. in 1927, DR WRIGHT: I was born in Brisbane

the 12th of the 12th, 1927.

And when I was six months old, thought they saw the light my parents

and came to Sydney. and left Brisbane

Now, this one here is Dad and you. and Mum and Ron, our older brother,

BROTHER: Yes, that's right. I'm about one year old there. DR WRIGHT: And me, than you do now, actually. You looked better then You had curly hair... DR WRIGHT: My dad was a clergyman. of a large hospital in Sydney. He was the chaplain strict, disciplinarian upbringing. So we had a very strict, very

pretty regularly. We used to get a hiding Once or twice a week. Dad had a strap and Mum had a cane. We'd get it around the legs. I can't remember that. What's this one? that's me when I was eight. That's not you, When I had my first story printed. You've forgotten about that. Good grief. to put up with you ever since. And the nation's been having ANNOUNCER: The Great Depression to Australian society probably did more damage than the two World Wars put together.

during the Depression years. DR WRIGHT: We grew up the funds were absolutely dreadful. Being a clergyman, of course, to bring up a family of three. Like, two quid a week There was no money. Christmas time you get one present, wrapped up in brown paper. during The Depression ANNOUNCER: The children who grew up by what they saw would be forever shaped and experienced in those years.

This is where I was brought up as a child. in Fox Valley Rd, Wahroonga, A lovely place. Very busy now. bring the bread and milk Then, horse and carts and Dad had a cow and chooks. with vegetables and fruit trees. And we were all self-sustaining, as a child. A marvellous place to be brought up

This is the house that my Dad built. Looks pretty well much the same.

rod-of-iron character. My mum had an absolute so I only have three boys, She said, "Education's essential,

they're gonna become doctors "they're gonna go to university, "and that is that." during the war years. This is where I went to school It was dreadfully competitive. a good pass and went to university, You either worked very hard, got probably got your head blown off. or you went to the army and work like the devil? Why wouldn't you

My first job after university, I had a hospital posting, the Central West of New South Wales after which I went to to a place called Tottenham, where I was the local GP, there was no chemist in town, I was the chemist - so I was a dispensing chemist. government medical officer Also, I was the mortems and all this sort of stuff. and the guy who had to perform post

who's in his early 20s, For a young guy

pretty daunting sort of job. this is a for a few years, I worked in the country and saw me one day then my mum came out you moved back to Sydney." and said, "I think it's time Not smoking in the waiting room. How's that for a sign of the times?

Mum's always right. So, OK, whatever Mum says, So she actually ran around Sydney for a young doctor to set up. finding suitable places so back I came. And she found this place,

And under Mum's eagle eye and did what Mum said. And Mum, as always, was right. I got married in 1955 Noreen Westlake. to a lady called Noreen,

very good friends ever since. And we've been we get on extremely well. We don't fight, ages were two, four, six, eight. Four children - at one stage, their every two years and go somewhere. So I'd have a holiday So that explains the children. (Laughs) Oh, two, four, six, eight, yeah. Down memory lane, wow. has this zest come from? Where on earth What's the story with you? Is it good genes? What is it?

Oh, absolutely. and so did Dad. Mum lived to a great ripe old age So, I think we got the right genes. to keep healthy through life. But you got to make an effort you get the most out of every day. If you do that, I think it helps a great deal. did you parents give you? Well, what else in quite important ways, Because you're clearly, been influenced by them. My parents were extremely strict. They taught us good manners. on the table, for example. You don't put your elbows

I was taught that, too. That was typical of the era, of course. And education was paramount. Mum's mother was a school teacher, Mum was mad on education. Punctuation, correct spelling, all that sort of stuff. And they were very enthusiastic. You make goals, you set goals and you reached the goals. Now, your dad was a pastor. That's right. And you've got the missionary zeal, really, haven't you? Well, when you're brought up with this sort of stuff from when you're still in your mum's arms

and this is drummed into you, that's just part of life but nothing special. Just that's the way you live and that's what everybody does. You sort of have the Christian ethic, which I believe in and follow. Whether people think it's good or not, I don't know, I don't care. You call it 'the ethic'. Was God a big thing in your growing up? Oh, yeah. If you didn't do what Mum said, God would strike you dead. (Laughs) How was that? She used to use these dreadful terms.

But it really stuck in and the overall pattern, I don't think it did you any harm, the overall total pattern of life. And vegetarianism was part of the family ethic, too, wasn't it? Yeah, well, my parents were before their time and they just did this because they thought it was a good idea.

And in direct respect, we grew our own vegetables, our own cow, our own chooks. And we did all these things -

that was how you lived and that was that. Well, as we saw there,

the Great Depression had its impact on the family and there wasn't a lot of material things around.

But you pretty quickly got into money-making schemes, didn't you? Tell us about some of those things, 'cause they were important roots for what was to happen later on. When I was a little boy at school, I found that people liked fresh vegetables, so I had my garden and also used to make coconut ice, which I'd make and bag and one of my mates would sell it.

Mum wouldn't let us sell, that was for the lower class.

Mind you, we were already there but that's what Mum thought. And I had chooks, I was able to buy the chooks, buy the feed and I'd sell the eggs to the neighbours.

At university you resold your notes, didn't you? Absolutely, yeah. In first year med, I went to the lectures, took the notes down, published them next year and sold them to all my mates. It was ten shillings each. That went on for years. So, yeah, you'd turn your hand at whatever

you could make a few bob doing because it was nice having a few bob in your pocket.

So you were really a nascent entrepreneur. Oh, well, who knows? But I did it because I enjoyed it. Judging those early days as a doctor out at Tottenham in Central New South Wales. you were the correspondent there for the ABC. Not that a lot happened in Tottenham. What on earth happened in Tottenham that you reported on? (Laughs) Absolutely nothing. We'd make things happen. And you'd type up your stories

and take them down to the post office

and the guy there - this is in 1952 - he'd send it by morse code on the line to the ABC. I'm not kidding, this is prehistoric but it was in my lifetime. Looking back, it was unbelievable. Well, James, no-one has combined medicine

and media like you have. Let's take a look at that.

DR WRIGHT: In 1968, 'Woman's Day' magazine was coming through the ranks as just getting off the blocks. And they decided to build their circulation on weight-reducing diets. So I was the guy who had to write the diet. You know, the bikini diet, the heatwave diet, the him and hers diet, the sex diet, whatever. And that led, inevitably, to 'The Mike Walsh Show',

which was just getting off the blocks in 1973. You take it out and it comes like that.

It's very nicely packaged - how's that? It either has a little condom on the end... to keep keep the little prick end sterile. There you are. DR WRIGHT: I was the resident doctor on 'The Midday Show' roughly the whole life of the show, 25 years all up. It will be a lot better. During the 'Midday' period, I often would illustrate the topic of the day with a little blackboard.

This is a gall bladder packed with gall stones, which can cause a huge amount of discomfort, of course. So we used to use these various things. That's another one with a blocked up heart,

'cause at the time they just started doing the heart blockage operations. So we tried to keep up-to-date

and show folk little simple illustrations. When I was writing for the newspapers

and on television and on radio, a lot of folk would write in letters asking about various topics.

So we got the idea of preparing a little booklet. And the response was absolutely enormous. And all the mail eventually arrived at my place here. A mail bag contains 2,500 letters

and we'd get up to 20 or 30 mail bags. Our biggest response to a weight-reducing book was 120,000 letters. By request from a Melbourne publishing company, I started to write books. Firstly a girls' book, then a boys' book,

then a children's book. There's been 26 of these books published. Would you believe it, eight or nine of them are still being published all around the world on a regular basis. MAN: G'day, how are you? Good to talk to you, mate. Yeah, you speaking to me in the last couple of months... DR WRIGHT: Ladies and gentlemen out there in radio land, on 131332 land, this is the last 'Good Health Show' with your friend, Dr James Wright, after 18 years. Yes, 18 years and roughly 20,000 questions

we've answered over that period of time. This is the very last show. Show number 876... DR WRIGHT: Folk rang about all manner of things. They liked to ring me up because they felt they knew you, they were too shy to ask their own doctor or felt embarrassed. WOMAN: I am 86. (Laughs) Oh, OK. You sound as though you're about 16, actually. But I will accept 86. What's your problem? My problem is recurrence of urinary tract trouble.

Oh, dear, what a good note to go out on. What a banger to go out with. It's quite emotional because talkback radio has a very emotional component. And you're all sort of trying to listen what the person's saying and you get involved with the person, become part of a jolly family. WOMAN: ..know that I love you and I miss you. And I've got nothing to do now on a Sunday night when you're not there.

Let's go back to those first days on television, on 'The Midday Show' because you really began there as a backup. Bit of a fill-in. Yeah, that's right, Peter. It was actually the old 'Mike Walsh Show' in those days. It'd only been going for three or four weeks. One of the researchers rang up, so we went along and discussed one of these dreadful diets, which are all the same, basically. The next week they, da da da, rang up again and 25 years later, they were, "Can you come back tomorrow?"

So it went on and on and on. It took over your life, actually. It really did. This meant a new meaning for the word 'patient' for your patients, did it? That you were suddenly out the door. Absolutely, I'd say, "Just stay here for a little while, "I've got to go away for a short period of time. "I'll be back, though." Although usually it was fairly scripted and you knew in advance. But sometimes these emergency things cropped up. I was the nearest regular

who could jump up and do something immediately. And there were some real breakthrough moments in all those years you were on television. Like the first Caesarean birth. Oh, yes. At that particular time, or up until then, they didn't have - you weren't revealing parts of the body, all this sort of stuff. So we did a lot of operations, Caesarean sections normal births, all these sort of things.

Weird things that just were not done. So even though it's commonplace now, in all the stuff you see now, that was, at the time, cutting edge stuff, at that time. Well, all of this had a momentous impact. I mean, do you think that it helped change the landscape of relationships between patients and their doctors? Well, I like to think so. I didn't learn any big words. I used simple words that I thought most of our viewers used and I just didn't get into all the scientific jargon. A lot of my peer group looked down and thought, "Oh, well, he's babbling on about all this stuff." And they tended to ignore it for quite a long time, 'til they realised that I wasn't upstaging them, I was tyring to say, "Look, if you get crook, "go and see your doctor and have a talk to him." I was trying to make a nice, happy relationship rather than anything else. I mean, they realised that, eventually, after quite a few years. Not every doctor's gifted with a bedside manner. But also, patients, if you think about it, too,

were reluctant to ask questions. But I suppose by seeing you there they felt that, "Well, a doctor should be accessible" because you were. I think so. And I'd think, "Why do people write these tens of thousands..." - there was over a million letters we got, huge volume. And it took a long time to realise into my thick skull majority of folk didn't understand what their doctor said, or couldn't remember it or didn't understand the technical jargon, so they'd go home, say, "What the hell was he talking about?" So they'd ring muggins up to try and get some nice, simple explanation. Now, what about the kids? Your own kids, that you were bringing up. Your life was just so full on. Did you have a lot of time for bringing up the children? (Laughs) Every doctor, every media doctor hangs his head in shame and say, 'No'. But if you have a supportive wife - and this lady was a good lady and her job was to stay home, look after the kids and run that side of life

and I ran all the other side of life. There was no 'ifs or buts,' no arguing. Never had a fight ever. And we just did our own job. So she looked after the kids and brought them up. Which was fine. Now, what about generation to generation? Did you want to make it a different upbringing for your kids that you'd had? (Laughs) I thought my parents were unduly harsh

with this very strict rules and regulation and getting the whack. I said, "I'll never, ever whack my kids" and I never did, ever. It's a different era, too. I mean, your mum said she wanted you and the brothers to be doctors. What aspirations or expectations did you place on your kids? Non-negotiable. You go to kindergarten, you go to primary school, you go to high school, you go to university, non-negotiable. I'll fund everything up to that point, if needs be. One daughter took it literally and she was still at university at the age of 30. But it was fine, I was very happy for them. And that was important. That was a non-negotiable point. They had to go to uni. You're still doing these little radio capsules, these daily radio capsules. So you haven't got out of radio altogether. It must have been quite a sad day, after 18 years, to end - at least, for now - to end your radio commitment. 'Cause that was a long-running show. Oh, yeah, well, I was on one radio show for four years and then a guy enticed me over

to the opposing radio show, which was number one. And I was there for 18 years. So, 22 years non-stop radio, plus these little daily capsules, which have been going for, getting on for 30 years. Day after day, they still wind on. Well, James, leaving radio, at least for now, has allowed you a little more time to really devote yourself to what is your current passion in life, which is the Medi-Aid Centre Foundation. Let's have a look at that.

SONG: # You'd be so nice # To come home to... # DR WRIGHT: Medi-Aid was established in 1971 by my family. And the prime aim is to provide nice housing for the community when they get older, across all socioeconomic levels. Our flagship is Vimiera Village on six acres of land. We have 150 beautiful units there. With the village, we've tried to make it as nice and roomy and homely as possible. The units have a large balcony at the front and one at the back and this beautiful garden, which they can help look after themselves if they like to,

plus, with our help. Vimiera Village is mainly for those who do have some financial resources. It's run on exactly the same as most community and church groups, the so-called 'resident-funded' system. Hello, hello, look who I'm seeing. Two of my extra-good friends. Now, you've been patients of mine for a long time and also you've been very good friends.

How long is that? How long have we known you, Annie? Well, about 47 years. 47 years. Nearly 48. What about you, Kath? 48. I took my baby son to you when he was about three months old, I think it was.

I remember. You remember that? How could I forget it? You enjoy it? I don't think I can forget it. DR WRIGHT: We also have units, one and two bedroom units.

And some of these are as low as $60 per week. Which in today's social climate is very, very small. Did you enjoy the Christmas party we had? Yeah, of course I did. I enjoy all of it. I love getting together. I love people. DR WRIGHT: Over a period of many years, Medi-Aid has built up a series of commercial ventures, which funds the organisation and we give most of our spare cash to it all, so we haven't made any calling on the government whatsoever

over the many, many years. Anyhow, you look very smart tonight. I love your silver hair.

Is that yours or is it only a wig?

Mine's a wig, it comes off at night. DR WRIGHT: Today I'm still living in the same home I moved into roughly 50 years ago. When you were still in primary school, I probably told you fellows this.

My brother and myself bought a packet of cigarettes. One afternoon we smoked this packet of 25 cigarettes in one afternoon. You know, we haven't smoked since. DR WRIGHT: I've been married for 50 years.

And in 50 years have never had any major blow-up, that's how tolerant my wife is. Guess it's not real bad, is it? How old were you? Oh, I was still in primary school? Fourth class? Oh, God.

10? 8 or 9? We get on really well. We're a happy family, very seldom have any disagreements. If we do, we sit down and negotiate it. try and share everything. And we all help each other, And we're just a happy family. it'll be that way. And we're determined gotta make the most of it. So, that's life, at this racetrack, You only get one hit as they keep on saying, every step a winner. and you gotta make

you gotta make every day win. Every day,

Looking at that, by material things, have you? you've never been much affected For yourself. Not really. are great, big, flash houses The things I don't like in life the 'right' suburb, a dirty big car, I just discount them, It doesn't mean anything to me. I just enjoy sleeping in the same old bed for the last 50 years. I just enjoy life as it is.

The simple things is what I personally like.

I really mean that seriously. Your big passion became this Medi-Aid Centre. Why that? Well, my old dad - my strict, mid-Victorian,

Christian upbringing, that's all I can put it down to.

these ideas into our brain. And they really instilled My dad was at the hospital were mismanaged. and he saw how older folk I mean, no-one cared about them. older, look after the elderly people So he said, "You guys, when you get

old yourself one day." "'cause you're gonna be Pack of lies, of course. And that's what he said. "OK, well, no big deal." And so we said, and did it. That's just what we decided to do Where did you get the money from? Not from being a GP. for any funding. We never ever asked the government "If you get government money, I thought, "there's a sting in the tail somewhere down the line." So we never asked the government.

And you didn't accept donations either, did you? No, no, no. Because that was messy? Or would create obligation? We're registered, at the time, we registered to take donations. And after awhile the people rang up and said, "Well, you haven't made any appeals." I said, "No," they said, "Well, give us the certificate back." Which we did, well, we might take it up again and get money from the public. the government for any money. We've never specifically asked are your money-making schemes. But what I want to know about Yeah, well...chooks and eggs...

Yeah, well...chooks and eggs... ..when I was a little boy. Real estate. get an old block of land To start with one block of land, and fill up the dirt holes and get rid of all the blackberries and mow the lawn. and put a fence around it And in the '50s, you could make by reselling the thing, substantial money so it was blocks of land and subdivisions, then houses... A motel. Yeah, we had a motel for 40 years, yeah. A printing company. A printing company? Yeah, funeral director's company...

Now, tell us about a funeral director's company. Every doctor has a funeral director who he deals with, mainly. This guy came along one day, said, "Oh, I've got the sack." And he said, "We oughta start up a funeral director's place." I thought, "What a great idea." So we got the place up and running and that went for 40 years.

When it comes to the Medi-Aid Centre, it started pretty small, as, inevitably, these things do. of how big it is now. But give us some sense

it's big on the Gold Coast. Because it's not only big in Sydney, in Sydney, Well, at the present time, we have several villages. Our Vimiera Village at Eastwood, that's our flagship. that's our biggest one, about 200 people living on site 150 units, caters for for a lot of them. and we provide meals and whatnot in Sydney. And we have a lot of smaller ones up here in the Gold Coast Then we have roughly 150 units nearly 200 people here, too. and look after

on elderly people themselves. Can we focus for a moment What are kids doing with elderly people? Do you think...the next generation is actually treating the elderly well? Because you're often dealing with people that have actually been in pretty difficult financial circumstances,

often because of their kids. Well, in the overall total pattern, parents are very good to their children and all kids - majority of them -

really don't care that much about their parents. want to put their parents somewhere, A lot of folk see them once a year... get rid of them, ..and that's that. if they've got a few bob So if we're there, into one of our nicer places, and can afford to go or if they haven't got much money, they can live quite well. just the pension, at Surfers Paradise All of a sudden, you have place overlooking the surf. Yeah, I'll say. Not real bad, is it? But there are also other stories. where kids, in a sense, I mean, hard luck stories, too,

or their parents' house mortgage their grandparents' and lose the lot on business deals.

That's very, very common. That's right. "Granny, lend me $500,000, "we'll start a fish and chips shop, and it'll be great." "we'll halve the profits goes broke in three months, So the kid, of course, Killara or Lindfield or somewhere. Granny's lost her lovely house at So she's out on the street. dreadful hard luck stories. But also, there are other

Cancer, heart disease, this, that. Partners walking out on them. So we scrape up these wrecks

quite reasonable. and make their life more satisfaction than this? James, has anything given you No. In life, you gotta do something. keep on saying And the medical journals or some passion in life, if you've got a goal you'll outlive all the other guys who - the bank manager that retired. and he rocked himself to death. They gave him a rocking chair

whatever it happens to be. So you gotta have a passion, it doesn't matter, Whether it's this or something else, to get out of bed every morning, as long as it's a reason keeps on saying. as my accountant of 50 years thousands of people - Over the years, James,

hundreds of thousands of people God knows, "What's the essence of a good life? must have said to you, "What's the secret to a good life?" How do you add to that? (Laughs) Keep healthy, sleep at night, positive attitude. plenty of water, good

that the Christian ethic, And I really believe I really believe, is good for us. I just believe it is. it doesn't really matter. If it's right or wrong, inspiration. Thanks for joining us. James, you're an absolute thank you so much. Peter, great to be here, I love them all. I love all my viewers and listeners, I really mean that. Thank you very much indeed. And join us again next week. You can also visit our website:

See you soon. Leave your comments and ideas.

as you can see, I'm not dead yet. Hello, Robertson here, I'll be turning up next week And to prove that, on that wonderful show with Peter Thompson called Talking Heads. at 6:30pm on Monday nights We have been mates for quite awhile isn't on the line. and I'm hoping our friendship That's Monday, 6:30pm, on everyone's ABC. Tomorrow night on 'Second Opinion',

how music is helping a little boy with autism. And a fitness instructor who finds himself at the osteopath. WOMAN: The positions may look a little awkward... Closed Captions provided by Captioning and Subtitling International Pty Ltd