I always say to other hospital CEOs or people in healthcare, that your community member or patient today is our tomorrow and will be yours the day after.Peter Faulkner, Bendigo Health CEO
Peter Faulkner assumed the role of chief executive officer at Bendigo Health at a time of great upheaval for the health service.
Former CEO John Mulder had just been ousted and the new $630 million Bendigo Hospital was opening in less than a year.
Mr Faulkner believes the reputational damage sustained by Bendigo Health at the end of Mr Mulder's tenure has been repaired, at least internally.
The same might be said for how the service is viewed by those removed from its day to day workings, with Bendigo Health shortlisted for the Premier's Health Service of the Year award.
"Those independent metrics suggest we have repaired and recovered," Mr Faulkner said.
The 64-year-old was surprised to find himself at the helm of Victoria's largest regional hospital, calling the appointment a surprise.
"It wasn't my express ambition to be the CEO," he said.
Recently celebrating his 10 years of service at Bendigo Health, Mr Faulkner's path to the top has taken plenty of twists and turns.
Born in Ballarat, he dabbled in various pursuits in his younger years as he found his feet in the world, with health care not his first career choice.
"At university I studied fine art, but decided I wasn't talented enough to make a career in that field."
"I worked for the Forest Commission as a trainee forester and had the opportunity to work for the predecessor of Australia Post, the Postmaster General's Department, delivering telegrams," he said.
"There are people that don't know what a telegram is, so I'm going back a few years," Mr Faulkner said.
From driving a motorcycle and delivering urgent communications, he said he fell into nursing.
House sharing with a radiographer and trainee radiographer, his interest in health was peaked when he overheard the pair studying.
"The trainee and his radiographer mate would go through various kinds of anatomy and physiology in preparation for his exams."
"I suddenly found that this was incredibly interesting and that was where it all began for me," he said.
Registering as a nurse 40 years ago, Mr Faulkner spent time in a range of clinical roles, before moving into nurse management.
It was his time with the Department of Health in Melbourne and the Grampians that opened doors for Mr Faulkner, who was commissioned to oversee the state's first public-private hospital partnership with the opening of Casey Hospital in Berwick.
"We got Casey up and running, but I got a profile as someone who knew something about starting new hospitals," he said.
"There is no question that we've got a really good health system. We can be critical of it, but Australia and Victoria has a very good quality, well developed and generally safe system," he said.
That was when Mr Faulkner was invited to open a hospital in the United Arab Emirates, where he worked for three years as the chief operating officer for the University Hospital Sharjah, which was eye opening in many ways.
"It was a vastly different experience and a very different professional environment compared to the Australian context."
Mr Faulkner made the trek to what seemed a world away with his wife Sue, leaving his four adult children behind.
"I said to Sue that I didn't think the children were ever going to leave home, so perhaps we should," Mr Faulkner said.
The stifling heat of the United Arab Emirates meant many of the social luxuries we enjoy became impossible, as he was confined to air conditioned buildings and shopping centres.
That was when a hobby of his developed, one he still dabbles in today.
"I've always built things and if I had finished my fine arts degree, I would have majored in sculpture."
"I have a friend who was a guitar maker and I said to him, is there something you can give me, I'll go mad locked up over the summer," he said.
Mr Faulkner began making instruments, first a mandolin and then ukuleles, of which he has now made 13.
From a few bits of wood on the kitchen table in the United Arab Emirates, this particular labour of love migrated back to Bendigo, where Mr Faulkner dabbles in playing, but mostly constructing ukuleles in his shed.
His other passion is on two wheels, with Mr Faulkner an avid rider, collector and mechanic of motorcycles.
"Ever since I was 17 years and 9 months and could get a learners permit, I have had some bikes," he said.
"I ride occasionally, but enjoy mucking around with them. I've got some old ones that I've fixed up and rebuilt."
The 'Italian bike man' as he dubbed himself has a penchant for Ducati's and will have a spot on the starting grid at Bendigo's very own grand prix next month.
The 2019 motopostie GP will raise funds for Bendigo Health's new Wellness Centre for local cancer patients.
The event, organised by Hazeldene's, will see all proceeds taken from the Sunday, December 1 event at the Bendigo Go-Kart Track go towards the Wellness Centre.
Mr Faulkner sees himself and Bendigo Health's workforce as custodians of the its state-of-the-art hospital and its services.
"It belongs to the community and broader regional community."
"I always say to other hospital CEOs or people in healthcare, that your community member or patient today is our tomorrow and will be yours the day after," Mr Faulkner said.
It is that holistic approach that has helped Bendigo Health come full circle and hum nicely, like the engine of a Ducati or a chord on the ukulele.