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Val Bock - TLM Hero

A woman with white hair and an orange shirt smiles at the camera in a park

Val Bock’s first official involvement with The Leprosy Mission Australia came as a nurse serving people affected by leprosy in Papua New Guinea – she started work there in 1961, although she had had contact with The Leprosy Mission from the late 50’s. She then went to work in India in 1966, later moving to Thailand in 1970 where she worked for 13 years alongside Dr Trevor and Mrs Heather Smith at McKean.

Initially, Val's role in Thailand involved setting up a medical program in McKean's leprosy rehabilitation villages situated in various parts of northern Thailand. Travelling by Land Rover, Val and her team, usually consisting of a nurse and a driver, navigated narrow mountain roads and dirt tracks often in remote, inhospitable terrain, to bring medical care to former leprosy patients and their families; sometimes bringing back with them a few patients in need of specialised ulcer care or surgery. This was pioneering work for Val and her team.

Later Val helped set up McKean's Vocational Training and Handicrafts Programme; and then in 1980 she headed up McKean's new Department of Communications and Health Education. This was a multi-purpose role, using radio and TV programs as well as village displays to educate the general public about leprosy and try to overcome stigma and people's great fear of the disease.

In 1984, she was appointed Editorial Secretary for TLMA and helped establish the various State Advisory Committees around Australia. Val wrote a variety of books from her field experience, including ‘Leprosy, Leeches and Love’ and some for children, like ‘Teng’s Story’ and ‘The Umbrella Girl: a painting book from Thailand’.

From the end of the 1980s, Val continued her involvement with TLM through a variety of supporting roles. She was appointed to the TLMA Executive Committee in 1988, as well as joining the West Australian State Committee, which she helped to establish and was the secretary for many years.

In 2012 Val retired from The Western Australian State and National Council after 53 years of long and outstanding service to The Leprosy Mission. However, she continued to serve The Mission, going back to Thailand twice to work at the McKean Hospital in Thailand, again assisting Heather Smith.