Barry Kirby AO

Founder, The Hands of Rescue, obstetrics and gynaecology specialist

2023 NSW Australian of the Year Nominee

Dr Barry Kirby AO was a 40-year-old carpenter working in Papua New Guinea (PNG) when he witnessed the devastating preventable death of a young woman.

He decided PNG needed more doctors than carpenters. Two degrees and 12 years later, he returned as a rural doctor.

Barry investigated over 30 maternal deaths in PNG and undertook extra study in obstetrics and gynaecology to learn how to better deal with emergencies. And so grew The Hands of Rescue, a not-for-profit working to reduce maternal mortality.

Barry’s approach is holistic. His safe motherhood program trains staff; provides a flying doctor service; builds waiting houses; and encourages mothers to give birth in health centres.

To also address the poor treatment of PNG women by men, Barry produced a PNG television drama, ‘It Takes A Village’ which shines a light on the plight of women and maternal health and educates men on women’s needs.