Ameliah Scott isn’t your average vet.
The 30-year-old lives on a remote station in outback New South Wales and travels hundreds of kilometres to tend to sick, injured and pregnant animals of all shapes and sizes — by plane.
“Everyone in western NSW knows me as the Flying Vet,” Dr Scott said.
With a full tank of fuel in her Piper Cherokee Arrow, Dr Scott can travel from the runway on her property, which is 80km from White Cliffs in far-west NSW, north to the Queensland border or south to the Victorian or South Australian one, and everywhere in between.
“The furthest I’ve flown to a job has been about a thousand kilometres away,” she said.
“The clients I cover are all rural, most of them are graziers and farmers, but I do also service the small towns that don’t have a veterinary clinic in them, which is pretty much all of them in rural New South Wales.
For Belinda Latham, the resident nurse in White Cliffs, and her shih tzu Lucy, Dr Scott is a godsend.
“We’ve been waiting a long time for Ameliah to get her business up and running and now that she has, we’re all so happy,” Ms Latham said.
“It means we don’t have to travel 300 kilometres to go and see the vet — we just ring Ameliah and she comes to us.
“It’s just the best thing for the outback, I think.”
Two passions combined
Dr Scott’s passion for flying started when she was a child, sitting in the passenger seat as her dad, Blue, took to the skies in his plane.
“My dad’s quite a good pilot and there was a fair bit of time spent in the aeroplane when I was a little tacker,” she said.
“We owned two properties back then so Dad would have to bus us between both places — that’s where the passion for flying came from.”
The drive to help animals also started when Dr Scott was young but grew from far unhappier moments.
“When I was growing up, during those formative years between five and 10, we were in a very bad drought and I saw a lot of suffering,” she said.
“A lot of our stock died and although I don’t think they could have been saved, it would have been good to know a few more management techniques to avoid that from happening in the first place.
A different kind of tragedy struck the family a decade ago, just as Dr Scott was preparing to start studying at university in Queensland.
“We lost my brother in a car accident just as I got into vet school,” she said.
“So, it wasn’t the easiest time to be dealing with that plus going through university, but I got through it.
“I think when you have a big loss like that, there’s two ways you can go about it — you can either feel sorry for yourself and be in the dumps or you can live life for the person who can’t be here and just take every opportunity.
“I chose to do the latter.”
‘Bread and butter’ done by road
Not all of Dr Scott’s work is done by air.
Once a month, she spends around 10 days travelling all over western NSW in her ute, stopping to see clients along the way.
“The ute is pretty much my bread and butter and it’s a service for anyone and everyone from Tibooburra to Balranald,” she said.
The road trips mean early starts and long days for the young vet.
“It depends where I’m going or who I’m seeing for the day but the alarm normally goes off at 4:30 in the morning,” she said
“I’ll have the car ready to go so I can just grab my overnight bag, a cup of coffee and head off.
“And it’s not unheard of for me to finish up at 9:00pm, depending on how many appointments I’ve got booked in for the day.”
Travelling by road also means Dr Scott can do a much wider variety of work.
“The plane is mostly for emergency appointments and booked in work, like pregnancy testing or brucellosis testing, because I don’t need a lot of equipment for that,” she said.
“On my runs, I carry an X-ray machine, an ultrasound, surgical tools, all the different medications I might need, and there’s just no way that’ll fit in my plane.”
Dr Scott said that although she’s living her childhood dream, it’s still a tough gig.
“I don’t think you’d want to be a new graduate, straight out of university doing it because you’re on your own,” she said.
“There’s no nurses or any other veterinary support so it’s fairly challenging.”
Flying as meditation
The plane provides Dr Scott with a necessary mode of transport given the vast ground she covers, but it also delivers her some downtime.
“You don’t really switch off from being a vet but when you’re flying, you can’t be thinking about too many other things.
“So, for me, it’s a really great way to disconnect from being a vet and just feel alive — and it doesn’t feel like I’m working when I’m in the plane.”
Days off don’t come often for Dr Scott.
When she isn’t in the air or on the road fixing animals’ ailments, she is put to work on her family’s 120,000-acre station.
“We run dorper sheep, goats and cattle, and I’m the fifth generation to do it, along with my now-husband, Brendan,” she said.
“As farming couples do, we work together quite a bit.
“If we’re not lamb marking or mustering or fixing a fence, we’re in the shed greasing trucks or grading or cleaning out the cattle yards.
“There’s been many an argument in the sheep yard or on the fence line, and I think he actually enjoys when I go away and give him a breather.”
Brendan Leyden grew up on a dairy farm in northern Victoria and met Dr Scott five years ago when she was working at a vet clinic in Kerang.
“She had me holding an animal on the operating table on our first date and then we went to the cafe next door, where she proceeded to forget her wallet,” Mr Leyden said, with a laugh.
The pair recently tied the knot under the shade of some gum trees on the Scott family station, where they now live with two dogs and two cats.
“Working with Ameliah has its moments,” Mr Leyden said.
“And to be honest, we couldn’t do what we do out here without her.”
A remote life they love
Mr Leyden said adjusting to the remoteness of life on a station that size wasn’t too much of a challenge.
“We are isolated if you want to do a Maccas run or go to the supermarket,” he said.
“But we’re also not isolated because we’ve got a very strong community out here — everyone’s just a phone call away and nothing is too much to ask.”
A strong sense of community comes with life in the outback and for Dr Scott, is one of the reasons she loves her job.
“It is a really strong community out here because it has to be when you’re isolated.
“You can’t afford to have a falling out with your neighbours because you might need them to help you pull a bore next week.”