After more than 47 years, well-renowned Perth medical practitioner Dr Lachlan Dunjey recently announced that he would significantly cut his working hours.
The father of four and grandfather of nine has lived an eventful life, both in the service of God and tending to the needs of patients under his care.
In addition to his role as a local GP, he has worked tirelessly as a voice for Christian doctors on the moral and ethical issues of our times and ran for the Australian Senate in 2004, narrowly missing being elected to the Upper House in the state election of 2005.
Dr Dunjey recently met with eRecord journalist Marco Ceccarelli to discuss the highlights of his career and the new journeys he feels called to embark on.
“Being a Christian GP is the most privileged position that one could have,” said Dr Dunjey as he looked back on a fulfilling and rewarding career.
“I had the privilege of maintaining a strong connection with the people under my care at all times. I delivered babies for 20 years and have also looked after people through the dying process: both tasks making every minute of my work as doctor worth the while,” he added.
Dr Dunjey has been a GP at St Luke’s Medical Group, Morley, for almost half a century and in the early years of practice was actively involved with the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).
He was behind the building of the surgery on McGilvray Avenue in 1968, which was initially set up as part house and part surgery, and in which he lived with his wife for six years.
The surgery has only recently been sold to a Christian doctor, much to the delight of Dr Dunjey and in answer to his numerous prayers.
Dr Dunjey’s commitment to both medicine and faith over the years has been undying. His origins, however, tell a different story – making his journey towards Christianity and the role of GP worthy of further investigation.
“My brother, Malcolm, who is seven years older than me, was the first in my family to become a Christian at the age of 15; my mother followed suit and, eventually, around the age of eight, I started attending Sunday School.
“I vividly recall the conviction of Jesus dying for me on the cross and feeling His love at one Easter message.
“My father eventually also became a Christian, although that did not happen until my mother was diagnosed with cancer. He was broken at the time and surrendered his intellectual atheism to God.
“The event of my mother’s passing was a significant part of my faith journey, it shaped my attitude to death and dying, and how it can be. She was very dedicated to her love of Jesus.”
Dr Dunjey’s journey towards medicine is equally as intriguing. Once again, his older brother played a significant role in leading the way and persuading his ‘science and engineering oriented’ younger brother to take up medicine.
“I was informed that the Western Australian School of Medicine was up and running and thought that I could combine my devotion to God with my newfound interest in medicine and possibly become a missionary doctor.
“While this did not happen, I am glad I made the choice of taking up medicine, especially since my brother Malcolm also decided to change profession and become a doctor, meaning we went through medical school at the same time.”
While it can be said that accompanying and looking after people through the process of dying has been one of the focal points of Dr Dunjey’s career, his work on depression and on breaking through certain barriers within this evolving field of medicine must be highly commended.
“I had the privilege of speaking on depression throughout WA from the early 70s, including within many Catholic churches. This was a time in which depression was being identified more clearly and I was able to put a perspective on it that other people simply could not. I could connect pieces together and highlight the need for medical involvement.
“Depression ultimately involves chemical imbalance for which anti-depressants may be appropriate. Christians, in particular, should not feel a failure because they need to take medication for this problem.”
The ability to use his skills as a doctor to enlighten people about what, at the time, was an ambiguous area of medicine urged Dr Dunjey to devote more of his attention to surfacing ethical and moral issues within the world of medicine.
In 1998, he weld together a Combined Church Leaders’ Response on the abortion issue, among whose signatories was now Archbishop Emeritus Barry James Hickey, destined for members of parliament.
This began a new phase in Dr Dunjey’s life in which contributing to discussions on ethics and morality played a central role in his life as general practitioner.
The second instalment of Dr Dunjey’s story will be published in next week’s edition of the eRecord.