Abby Aitchison

Abby Aitchison, Owner & Principal Physiotherapist, AA Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic

Abby Aitchison built her business AA Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic from home in the idyllic rural setting of Murwillumbah. With over 15 years experience as a practicing physiotherapist, and a reassuringly impressive array of post graduate qualifications, Abby’s love of sport led her to the profession. Playing basketball at a high level herself, along with the work she undertook with Australian Rules Football and Rugby Union clubs in the ACT, means Abby understands how to treat athletes at all levels.

Now working from AA Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic‘s commercial premises, Abby’s passion is for helping people to recover from injury and get back to enjoying their regular activities through educating them to understand their own body, and preventative health management.

How did you build up your business from a side hustle to running a commercial premises?

I did exactly that – I hustled! I was working full-time as a physiotherapist at Murwillumbah District Hospital and had the practice set up at home to work after-hours. I worked to make connections with other local health practitioners, including GPs. When I was ready to launch the practice, I already had a referrer base. I made the most of two lots of maternity leave from the hospital to continue to build the practice. It was the best arrangement: treat a few patients, then feed a baby!

My husband has offered unwavering support, which has allowed me to build the business. His enthusiasm to share parenting and household duties has been vital. Eventually, the business was busy enough that it was being hampered by being in a house and not being able to have support staff. A suitable premises became available at an opportune time, and we took the plunge.

As a physio, how do you empower people to take control of their own health long term?

The best outcomes stem from people truly knowing how much capacity they have to influence their own health.

The human body is amazing, and it has an enormous capacity to adapt and compensate to so many conditions placed upon it.  It is not a fragile and precariously balanced system which requires regular intervention from an outside source. I seek to work more as a coach and an educator rather than a mechanic that “fixes” people’s problems.

How have you structured work flexibility into your business, and is this visible to others?

Work flexibility was the major reason I started AA Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Clinic. I made the decision very early to be quite firm in making sure I always had time for my family. Until this year, I only ever treated patients 3 days a week, and my client base has been overwhelmingly supportive of my limited availability.

My work flexibility was most visible when I was working from home. My kids would come and say “goodbye” to me as they left for preschool and day care, and then “hello” when they got back home. Patients knew I only worked certain days of the week, and often had time off in school holidays.

Now I work from a commercial premises, the visits from my kids are less frequent, but still welcome. I can block time off to go to school assemblies, and still close for some time in most school holidays.

Why did you choose to leave Canberra to set up a business in Murwillumbah?

I’d worked as a locum physiotherapist in Murwillumbah between leaving work on the Sunshine Coast and returning to Canberra. I knew there was a gap in the market for a female physio. I also assumed there was room for at least one more private practice in town.

My husband and I had originally planned on spending many years in Canberra before perhaps leaving again. We’d really enjoyed our time in Murwillumbah, and thought we’d move sooner rather than later. I ended up being quite unhappy in the practice I’d returned to in Canberra. The Principal Physiotherapist and practice owner dictated long working hours and weekend work. I had little opportunity to see the family and friends I had returned to Canberra to see.

After little more than a year back in Canberra, we’d decided to buy a house in Murwillumbah that could accommodate a home practice. Soon after, a physiotherapist role became available at Murwillumbah District Hospital. The decision was easy!

Advice for future female leaders

My advice comes in two parts:

  1. Downgrade your domestic standards! This looks different for everyone: it might be letting the fly screens wait another week before their regular clean, or just letting the dishes stay in the sink. Get a cleaner if you can. I have never seen anyone who is truly “up to something” run a perfect household.
  2. Mindset is Queen. I never realised how much pull my mindset had on my business, and it has taken a looooong time to know that it is similar for most business people. Just like on the chess board: protect the Queen! (because it’s all a game anyway).


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Posted by Jade Collins - Femeconomy Director

Jade Collins has 20 years’ global experience in corporate executive Human Resources and management consulting roles in the Mining, Energy and Aerospace industries, leading large scale, complex multi-million-dollar change management programs. Jade finds the combination of her HR, Psychology and MBA qualifications and her leadership experience is invaluable for increasing gender equality in leadership across industries. Jade was a member of the Queensland Government's Strategic Advisory Group for the Toward Gender Parity: Women on Boards Initiative and the 2019 CQU Alumni of the Year for Social Impact for her work with Femeconomy.