1. You recently dug graves at the Ebola Treatment Centre in Sierra Leone. Was that a first in your Red Cross work?
I was in charge of all discharges from the hospital, so my team sent survivors home safely and we buried the dead in the cemetery next door. Digging graves is not very sought-after work by the local staff and was quite new to me. I pitched in and helped my four gravediggers sometimes, to show a bit of solidarity. It's not easy to dig a grave with a pick and shovel, especially into granite-like rock. One of my team, Ernest, gave the most beautiful off-the-cuff prayers you ever heard, sometimes Christian and sometimes Muslim - very moving and the hairs on my arms still stand up when I think of how it was. The saddest part was sending home parents who had lost their children.
2. Are you religious?
No, I don't really know what happens after you die.
3. Were you worried about your personal safety?
No. The Red Cross has strict protocols. Before entering the hospital tent we'd wash our hands in 0.05 per cent chlorine and wear scrubs and gumboots. Safe burials are the key to beating Ebola because the viral load peaks at the time of death.
4. How did you become a nurse?
I grew up in Taradale, Hawkes Bay. I left school when I was 16 because I was the only kid in my class who didn't get accredited for UE. I was really pissed off because I was just as good as the others. But anyway I got on with life, worked on a dairy farm, a car factory, welding. One day I was visiting a workmate in hospital when some nurses and a male orderly came along, joking and having a good time. I got chatting and thought 'I could give this a go'. So I turned up at Lower Hutt Hospital on my motorbike with my black jacket and my long hair. The matron looked at me and shook her head in dismay. I was listening to the Eagles, Chicago and the Doobie Brothers back then. The matron told me to spend a day on a ward and come back if I liked it. It was in a female rheumatology ward with old women who were quite frail. I had such fun that day, just carrying bedpans, doing meals, sweeping and stuff. There was a really nice sense of warmth and belonging. So I went along to class where I was the only guy out of 43 students. It was a bit odd, but I stuck with it.
5. Did you encounter any sexism?
In those days a man couldn't train as a midwife in New Zealand, which was a bit strange. All the gynaecologists and obstetricians were men, so why would I get excluded?
So I went to Melbourne to get my registration. I don't like to be told I can't do something. My path in that field was trying to make the women as pain-free and relaxed as possible. I never had a woman refuse my care.
6. Did you deliver your own daughters?
I was going to deliver the second one. My wife Daniela and I were living in a remote part of Queensland and didn't have any family around to help. So I had Emily, who was 18 months old, asleep in her pram in the labour room. Just as Josephine's head was crowning, Emily sat bolt upright and said, "Daddy, Daddy!" I just pulled my gloves off and said to the other midwife, "You go ahead, I'll get Emily". She wouldn't go to anyone else except Dad.
7. What kind of father were you?
I was more like a housewife than a father. Daniela was training as a GP, so I'd have the meal on the table, looking out the window thinking, "is she coming soon?" Every Thursday we'd have a mothers' group. I remember one day we went to morning tea on a sugar cane farm. I walked in with my nappy bag and the girls and a burly husband sort of did a double take. I just said, "Gidday I'm Andrew, come to have morning tea with your wife" and he said, "yeah, yeah, come in, no worries".
8. You ended up graduating from four universities - Massey, La Trobe, Monash and Queensland where you got the prize for research. Do you look back and curse your school teachers?
I do still think about that, yeah. I wonder how they sleep at night. I knew I was no slouch academically.
9. How did you get into Red Cross work?
A friend suggested it. I do struggle with the mundane but I'm not one of those people who go looking for danger. My first job was at a field hospital in Sudan. There were plenty of gunshot wounded coming in. The first day I was fluffing round a bit and a surgeon said to me, "Andrew, don't think - just do". And from then on I was right. I spent a year in Afghanistan as a project manager helping a hospital in Jalalabad get back on its feet. That was very rewarding. Osama bin Laden was still hiding nearby in Tora Bora, so the atmosphere was quite tense.
10. What's the most dangerous situation you've found yourself in?
The 10 months I spent in north Yemen. Security was so tight that we had to go to work each day at a different time and by a different route. While I was there, a group of people that I knew at Sa'ada Hospital were killed. Nine of them went out on a picnic one day with their kids. We heard that they were all missing - children, everyone. A year later they found their bodies in shallow graves. The children had been spared and put with local families. I've lost a few colleagues. When I was in Kandahar in 2011 my friend was nearby in Quetta, so we talked a lot on the phone. He was abducted and killed by criminals. I lost another about 18 months ago. A quiet gentle man whom I worked with in Iraq. He was killed a year later in North Africa. Their deaths probably make me more determined to do a good job.
11. Are you more frightened of global warming or global warfare?
Global warming. People are very wasteful as a species. I ride a bike and walk. Just having one less car is helping the planet.
12. How would you define happiness?
Kind of like a contentment in yourself. There's different ways of achieving that. For me it's seeing a smile on someone else's face.