All Saints: articles

TV doc a real life saint

JEREMY Cumpston's acting resume includes All Saints, Roar and an extensive list of stage productions -- but it was a video about middle ear infections which led to his latest career move.

The soap star, who played nurse Connor Costello on All Saints, was touring the outback raising awareness of the condition -- which can affect up to 80 per cent of Aboriginal children in some communities -- when he had dinner with a doctor friend in Bourke.

The friend mentioned that it was next to impossible to find other doctors willing to work in the rural township -- that's when the actor, who is also a qualified doctor, decided to act.

"I just said if he needed someone he should give me a call," Dr Cumpston said. "And he did."

Dr Cumpston signed a 12-week contract to work in Bourke's Aboriginal Medical Service. Then he stayed another 12 weeks -- and then another. By the time he gets back to Sydney and the acting world next week, he'll have spent the best part of a year in the Outback.

"I was really glad to get back to medicine because I'd been missing it after four years in television," he said.

"And I've really enjoyed working in Bourke ... the people here are the most friendly, welcoming people I have met in my life.

"They are so generous that it only took me four hours to get $4500 in donated prizes for next Saturday's fundraiser [Daffodils Walking Bourke Forwards Day]."

Dr Cumpston, who has Aboriginal heritage through his grandfather, particularly enjoys working with indigenous people.

"I like their sense of humour. They are very honest and very open in so many ways when you get to know them," he said.

Still, it's his acting background rather than his Aboriginality which gets their attention.

"[My relatives] are all from Broken Hill and all my cousins are very much more identifiable as Aboriginal while I look like a honky from New York. [But] because I am on television [my patients] see me in a different light. I also think the community responds well to people who want to help," he said

Dr Cumpston was an "old-fashioned" doctor, leading community health activities as well as seeing people when they needed medical treatment. He ran weekly low-fat cooking classes, planned the Daffodils Walking Bourke Forwards Day event and recently helped local youngsters make an anti-alcoholism ad.

He admitted running an acting/directing career from Bourke hasn't always been easy given the Sydney-centric showbiz world.

"A couple of times it has been really difficult. I've had to get in my car and drive for three hours through the desert so I could catch a plane and get to the audition," he said.

Whenever he got out the video camera so he could film an audition tape in his home, he had to distract his 3-year-old son Hal who assumed cameras should always be pointed at him.

After a year of country medicine, he is returning to the city to get back to his joint loves of acting and directing.

His passion for directing began while he was in his third year of medical school.

Despite his aspirations behind the camera, he originally took up acting as he felt he should know what it involved before he could tell other people how to do it.

But, after awhile, acting became his full-time career. "You kind of get sidetracked in life, don't you?" he said.

• Daffodils Walking Bourke Forwards Day is on September 14 and starts at 10am in the central park.

By Carly Chynoweth
September 09, 2002
The Daily Telegraph