Raquel Stevens

Growing up in the 80’s, like 9 million other Australians, I loved watching the Australian soap opera, “A Country Practice.”  It starred Shane Porteous as Dr Terence Elliot and featured the much-loved wombat, Fatso. I was devastated when it was cancelled after airing for more than 14 years.

I sense Daylesford residents felt the same recently when word quickly spread that the town’s beloved GP, Jon Barrell, was hanging up his stethoscope after 36 years.

Well rest assured, he’s not quite ready to retire yet.  We recently caught up at his magnificent property, Coomoora, and talked tim tams, golf, and the need for an indoor swimming pool.

What brought you to Daylesford?  

I grew up in Ballarat and I think part way through medical school, I decided that I was going to be a country GP. Obstetrics, birthing, and anaesthetics was the path I went down.

I needed to choose a town. I thought probably more than 3,000 people, so I wouldn’t be on my own. I didn’t fancy the idea of being a solo GP and never having a day off.

And probably less than 10,000 people, so you wouldn’t have specialists leaning over your shoulder and saying, no, no, that’s my turf, get out.

You are a much-loved GP in the community, what’s your secret to connecting with the locals?  

Whilst it took time to settle in, I’m a country lad at heart and feel most at peace in rural Australia.

Describe your favourite spot in Daylesford.

My home at Coomoora.


Why are you taking a step back?

Well in my view the job of being a country GP is rewarding every day and that’s why I’m only calling this semi-retirement. It’s about making a break from a regular roster and being a bit more in control of when I’m available.

I’ll probably do a couple of weeks at Springs in September. I’m booked to do a couple of weeks at Longreach, in Queensland in October.

What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?

My housemaster at school told me “Barrell, you’re too self-righteous for your own good”.  I try to be more humble. I don’t always succeed.

How would you describe yourself?

I’d say that I think I’m a good nutter-outerer.  You want people to walk out the door with a smile on their face and a plan for moving forward.

And that doesn’t always solve the entire episode, but if you can decode, decipher and appease their anxiety at least.

What are your thoughts on Dr Google?

Well, I think that people have always turned to a reference. I don’t think there’s anything different to my ancestors looking up Encyclopedia Britannica or reading the health tips in Women’s Weekly, to what the modern generation might do with their search engines.

I’ve got no problem with that.

A wombat walks into your rooms in a top hat, what would it say?

I would ask “What can I do for you?”

Name your 3 favourite dinner guests.

My wife, son & daughter. Then I would add our daughter-in-law and our son-in-law, and the 2 grandchildren, and Gordon & Hamish, our 2 Jack Russell pups.

Sent off to Wombat State Forest for the rest of your eternal life, what 3 items would you take?

A bottomless bottle of red wine, my golf bag, and an e-bike.

Any golf tips?

I think I’m the worst person to offer a golfing tip. My tip is just to make the most of every day. I think we never know what’s around the corner.

Do you have any concerns for Hepburn Shire?

I was a shire councillor for four years. One of the biggest concerns is whether a shire of this size is viable for the long term.

I think the region’s got a great future, but how you administer it, that’s different when there’s challenges for health service management.

What would be a good addition to Daylesford?

I think an indoor pool and a splash park for kids. I don’t know where that sits on the community’s vision, but as a grandparent, some additional recreation spaces that are more family friendly.

It would be nice to have the picture theatre back too.

What would the title of your memoir be?

I’ve written volume one “The Domino Trail”.

It’s 2023, what prediction do you have for 2033?

My grandchildren will be teenagers by then, and I’m hoping to be the best Gramps I can be.

What are you streaming right now?

Mystery Road on ABC iView.

What’s next for Jon Barrell?

A balanced semi-retirement as a General Practice and Emergency Medicine relieving doctor (locum) in places where the medical workforce struggles to meet the need.

If you were a hashtag, what would you be?

I don’t do twitter, instagram or tik-tok. I do like tim-tams though.

Jon, who doesn’t love a tim-tam.  I agree about social media too, let the young ones have selfies, tik-tok and twitter.

Raquel Stevens is a former Network Ten News Journalist. She has been a part time local for more than 25 years, and one day hopes to be a full time local.