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Paula is an award winning photojournalist and author based in south east Queensland. Her articles and images are published in state, national and international newspapers, magazines, industry and overseas publications including APN, Fairfax, The Guardian, Queensland Country Life, the Brisbane Courier-Mail, The Sunday Mail, The Australian, RM Williams Outback magazine, Australian Country Style, MindFood, OutThere in-flight magazine, Tiger Tales, Jetstar magazine, TRAVELTHERENEXT and industry publications including Meat & Livestock Australia's Feedback magazine and John Deere's Furrow. She writes travel features, media releases, news, science and technical articles often with a rural and remote focus.

Published Books by Harper Collins: Australian Midwives, 2016; An Outback Life, 2016; Outback Governesses, 2017.

Media Award for Excellence in Rural Photography 2013, 2014, 2016, 2019
Australia Star Prize Photography - 2013, 2014

Alwyn Kucks Memorial Prize 2022 Heritage Photographic Awards

Head On Photo Festival exhibitor, Sydney, 2017

Articles About Paula

🔗 "Outback photographer Paula Heelan brings bush to city in Head On Photo Festival"

🔗 "The photographer documenting outback Australia"

🔗 "A picturesque outback life."


In 1996, I married a cattleman from Central Queensland, and moved from Brisbane to Ulcanbah Station - three hours west of the Whitsundays.  Having grown up in Tasmania, the bush change was massive, but one I embraced.  There was a lot to learn but I soon gained a greater understanding about what living on the land was all about. I loved the daily life: School of the Air, outback events, bush sports, the livestock and wildlife, the extreme weather, the long distance driving and the power of the landscape. 


I arrived at my new home towards the end of a long drought period and was welcomed by a flat, parched landscape, empty but for crows and apostle birds.  I wondered if I had done the right thing, but a few months in the wet season arrived - a proper one - and almost overnight the dusty, brown land transformed to a lush, emerald green.  New life appeared - a wide range of birds returned, insect explosions occurred and reptiles came out in force.  Then the dams, creeks, waterholes and river spilled over and we were rained in.  With every good wet season comes a sense of contentment and great joy.  Everyone breathes a great sigh of relief at the first decent downpour and becoming isolated by flooded creeks is welcomed. In the bush, weather is the number one topic of conversation all year round.  

As time passed, I gradually took on some freelance journalism work.  I pitched rural and outback story ideas to newspaper and magazine editors.  In order to be published, I needed to provide quality images with the stories.  While I'd always had a love for photography and studied it at university as part of my journalism degree, when I arrived at Ulcanbah I was still primarily a writer.  Over the next few years, without access to face-to-face training, I followed other photographers' work, read greedily on the topic, studied powerful images to understand what it was that made them stand out and tried to keep up with the latest camera gear and changing technology.  I took countless photos every day (and still don't leave the house without taking a camera). I constantly search for a different approach, a new way to see things and try to keep images simple.

Photography helped me view the bush differently.  The flat, dry, barren landscape I first saw was replaced with a kaleidoscope of colour, magnificent light and texture from red dirt to sapphire skies - long roads, small towns and incredible people. When editors began calling for stories and photos, I realised there was a niche for rural and remote work and I eagerly ran with it.  Writing and photographing outback Australia soon became all consuming.  As well as working on local news and feature stories, I wrote travel articles with focus on remote destinations.  My collection of work is a vignette of life in the outback and of the people and places I have come to know.  Not just the iconic romantic representation of drovers, horses, cattle and dust, but the daily business of living, working, running enterprises and making it in the bush.  When you live on the land there is something new happening constantly and you never know what each day will bring.  The people are resilient and down to earth; and for most, their love of living on the land is so deep, there is no other lifestyle choice.  I am so happy to be part of this vast, remote community, to have made the very best of friends and to have raised our children in outback Queensland.

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