“As bright as bright can be”
Back in 2011, a feature article, “A Fortunate Life,” appeared in the Kent Saddlery Catalogue. It focussed on Clint and Heidi Smith from Iffley Station in the Qld Gulf. Clint is quoted as saying “I don’t think you’d get to live on a better road, for the kids and the people. There are twelve kids an hour or so away from each other, so the kids have a wonderful network of friends” (read Clint and Heidi’s article here).
This statement still rings true for the station roads in the Normanton to Julia Creek area (and all over the country for that matter!) In 2013 the Smith kids at Iffley were as the jingle reveals, “as bright as bright can be”.
In 2013 it was a pleasure to see Sam (twelve), Hugh (ten), Archie (seven), and Bridget (four and a half) once more. The visit was also a reminder that in 2014, the family dynamic will change and Sam will be one of numbers of country kids who, out of necessity will leave the familiar surroundings of their Station home.
Station kids lead a unique life; usually several hours away from the nearest town. Sometimes there might be other kids living at the station …sometimes not. It’s probably fair to say that, in the main it’s a carefree existence, with ponies, horses, dogs, chooks, poddy calves in abundance; with their welfare the responsibility of the station kids. Campdrafts, rodeos and gymkhanas, school camps and sports camps are venues for competition and an opportunity for getting together with kids from other properties and local communities.
Formal education for most Outback kids is through Distance Education with assistance and supervision provided by a governess / home tutor … (and sometimes, Mum). Children are in daily radio contact with teachers at the Distance Ed. base, and in some places video / skype communication is now available.
However, by the completion of primary education, many students leave the routine and security of station life, and travel to boarding schools in major towns or cities. Parents and their children realize that to further their education and benefit from a wider range of scholastic, sporting and social activities, leaving home is essential … and hard.
In 2014, Sam Smith will be one of the kids to “spread his wings” and make the most of the benefits of attending boarding school in Brisbane. Up the road, his mate Charlie Wockner from Glenore Station will also be entering the next level of education at a Toowoomba boarding school. Clint and Wendy Wockner, Clint and Heidi Smith and Sam and Charlie’s siblings will be sad and deep down glad for their big boys when the day of separation comes.
In May 2013, at the conclusion of a detailed report citing important developments within the Shire, Ernie Camp from Floraville Station, Burketown and mayor of the Burke Shire penned the following words
“Not only are there large changes happening within Council this year but also here at Floraville. This year all our children are away at boarding school and Kylie and I are struck by how quiet it is and how many pets we have accumulated given that we now have to take care of them.
It leaves quite a hole in your heart and in closing I would like to say to all those parents out there sending their kids off to school or university that you have my utmost empathy and admiration for unselfishly letting your children go.”
Quote from Edition 36: Bourke Shire Council Newsletter, May 2013.
This sentiment would surely be echoed in Outback homes right across the nation.
1) Archie, Hugh, Bridget and Sam Smith