Book Review: Emergencies Only, by Amanda McClelland

Book Review: Emergencies Only, by Amanda McClelland

Amanda McClelland went from being a registered nurse to an emergency relief worker and provides a fascinating insight into the vital work of aid organisations.


Amanda McClelland first worked as a registered nurse at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Brisbane and was drawn to paediatric nursing by the resilience of her patients – she could see quickly that she was making a difference. After eighteen months, and just as she began to realise the regular routine of a big city hospital was not for her, McClelland was nursing an Aboriginal girl with severe burns whose mother did not visit her daughter very often.

The author describes the total culture shock this Indigenous woman was experiencing in the city. Yes, she had taxi vouchers but didn’t know how to call a taxi; she’d been given an ATM card but had no idea how to use it and was hungry because she was scared to go into a shop to buy food. This experience coincided with a job advertisement in Alice Springs and McClelland began her career of working to help the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people around the world.

Her experiences in working with Indigenous Australians led McClelland to become a relief worker, initially with the Red Cross. She has worked in disaster relief in the Pacific Islands and in many African countries. Although the stories in Emergencies Only involve devastating natural disasters such as the Boxing Day Tsunami, the earthquake in Nepal or famine in Sub Saharan Africa it is much more than a catalogue of tragedy. The author writes with good humour, compassion and empathy for those caught up in these events and reminds us that each of the ‘Thousands Injured’ in the headlines is an individual, not merely a statistic.

We are treated to a behind the scenes look at the amazing work of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and aid organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières and Concern Worldwide. To better assist those in need McClelland has had to learn new skills including: sanitation; engineering; logistics; and people management to mention just a few.

Working in often harsh conditions and being exposed to tropical illnesses took its toll and McClelland returned to work with the Red Cross in Geneva. As Senior Officer, Emergency Health, she was head of their response to the 2014-2016 West African Ebola response and the author was given the Florence Nightingale Award for exceptional courage in 2015.

The book provides a fascinating insight into the vital work of aid organisations and is highly recommended.

Reviewed by Jan Kershaw

Rating out of 10:  8

Released by: Allen & Unwin
Release Date: September 2017
RRP: $32.99

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