Vale - Robert F Fleay


Vale – Robert F Fleay

Diagnostic Radiographer, Therapy Radiographer, Scientist, Physicist, teacher, dedicated family man, sailor, gardener, fisherman and thoroughly decent person.

Robert (Bob) Fleay was born in Mount Lawley, a suburb of Perth in 1929.

He received his secondary schooling at Perth Modern School and in 1947, at the age of 18 years, was accepted to the staff of Royal Perth Hospital as a Cadet Radiographer. At that time, the cadetship included aspects of both diagnostic and therapy technologies.

In 1951 the hospital recognised the need for a training course specifically for radiotherapy technicians, and Bob was sent to Melbourne for a course in Radiotherapy Techniques at the Peter McCallum Institute. It was there that he met Fran, his future wife. She followed him back to Perth shortly after his return, to an appointment in the Diagnostic Radiology Department and they were married in 1954 and had two children.

On his return from Melbourne, age 23, Bob’s appointment at the hospital was confirmed as a Senior Radiotherapy Technician.

Throughout his life he had an insatiable thirst to learn, particularly in the fields of medicine, and physics, and he began further part time studies, completing a Diploma of Applied Science (1959), Fellowship by Examination of the Australian Institute of Radiographers (1962), BSc (WAIT 1972) and MSc (WAIT 1983).

By 1954 he had taken up the post of Chief Radiotherapy Technician and his immediate tasks included the planning and organisation of a new department in a new wing of the hospital, currently being built. This culminated in the transfer of equipment from the old department, and installation of a new 250 Kilovolt Constant Potential Therapy Unit, at the end of 1955.

Bob held this position until 1960, when, with the establishment in the Hospital of a Department of Medical Physics, he transferred into that Department as Assistant to the Physicist, whilst still retaining some supervisory duties in the Planning of Radiotherapy treatments.

Throughout his working career, Bob was a great supporter and active member of the professional body ASMIRT (then AIR), both at State Branch and national levels, and was elected President in 1959-1960. In the same year he was awarded the Watson Victor Medallion by the Institute for outstanding achievement in Radiography.

He was later, granted Life Membership.

With the advent of Nuclear Medicine as a new and exciting medical discipline, and following his great interest in new developments, Bob applied for, and was awarded one of the first Winston Churchill Memorial Fellowships to be given in Western Australia. This to study the use of radioisotopes in diagnosis and therapy, at the Medical Research Centre, Brookhaven National Laboratory, New York. His report, as a condition of fulfilling the Fellowship, was well received, and circulated widely to hospitals around Australia.

In recognition of his achievements, and his contribution to, and support of Diagnostic, and Therapy Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, and his generous commitment in teaching to technical and medical trainees, Bob was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists.

After his retirement in 1987 he had more time to enjoy his many other passions including sailing and motor boating – at one time he was Commodore of the Fremantle Sailing Club – gardening, fishing and an expanded family of grandchildren and great grandchildren.  

Bob believed in working hard, to reap the just reward for his efforts. He dedicated his working life of 40 years, not only to his own department, but to the Hospital and its patients as a whole. He believed in doing the right thing by his fellow man, treating people with respect, and always ready with his latest favourite joke, to having a good laugh.

Written by David Hartley and the Fleay family – March 2021