From Occupational Therapist to Jillaroo, if you can dream it, you can do it!

Host: Kalyeeda Station
Written by Casey McRobb

I had no idea what to expect when I graduated from uni and accepted a short term contract as an Occupational Therapist in the Derby Allied Health Team. I knew that Derby was in the Kimberley Region, a few hours from Broome, but I had never visited the area.

I was also very much a city slicker with only a little taste of the country lifestyle growing up (Dad managed an ostrich, emu and deer farm for a few years and so during school holidays my brother and I would go to work with Dad and spend each day tearing around on our BMX bikes or ‘helping’ out with farm duties). My family and friends, although supportive of my choice to head north for the work, did all give me a sideways look when I shared the news of my new job with them.

“Why Derby?” was asked many a time. The contract was only for three months and I had no intention of making the Kimberley my home longer term. I had intended purely to get some experience under my belt so that I would be more employable in one of the tertiary hospitals in Perth. Little did I realise that I would fall madly in love with the vastly rugged landscape, the boabs, pindan dirt, the relaxed life style and the people. I can remember sobbing uncontrollably when I had to pack up and leave Derby after my three month contract had run its course.

I moved south for a few months but always had a strong yearning to be back up north. So when the opportunity to work in the Kununurra Allied Health Team presented itself I grabbed it with both hands. It was this decision that changed my life. This certified city chick was converted into a full blown country music loving, rum drinking, boot stomping, shirt wearing, horse riding, four wheel driving, water fall adventuring country lass.

It was here that I met and became great friends with Hannah Camp. She introduced me to rodeos and convinced me to ride a steer (what an adrenaline rush that was) and I met her family and learnt about station life. It sounded like an experience I had to have. I started toying with the idea of a season as a Jillaroo but was told, “you don’t have the skills, you won’t cope in the camp”.

I ended up taking leave without pay from my job as an Occupational Therapist in Kununurra and became a governess on a station in the Territory instead. While I was thankful for the opportunity to be experiencing the station life style, I still longed to be a Jillaroo.

I ended up living and working in Kununurra for seven years. It truly is a magical place and unless you spend at least six months there, I don’t think you can really appreciate its beauty. I moved away to progress my career and work as Senior Occupational Therapist in the Gascoyne Region. This was clinically a great move, I had the privilege of working with some beautiful families and expand on my clinical skills, but again I yearned to be back up north. One day I was on the phone to Hannah talking about how much I was I missing the Kimberley when she said,

“Why don’t you come out to the station and work for a bit?”

I considered her proposal for a few weeks. She checked with her Mum and Dad, if it would be a possibility and when we spoke again a few weeks later she confirmed that I could spend a few months at Kalyeeda if I wanted.

Never in my wildest imagination did I expect to, at 31 years of age, finally get the opportunity to for fill my dream of working in the stock camp. My family were confused about my decision to resign from a well-paying, stable job, for a few months of cattle work in the middle of nowhere, but I was determined to prove to myself that I could in fact cut it as a jillaroo.

I’ve been at the station now for nearly two months and have finally re-adjusted my body clock so that I actually don’t mind the 4.45am wake ups.

Lunch break at Rodney’s after a morning of drafting, vaccinating, branding etc. Exhausted! It’s hot, dusty, dirty work.

I have learnt that smoko is definitely the most important meal of the day and tried my hand at a number of things that I supposedly “don’t have the skills for”, such as mustering, drafting, fencing, yard building and shoeing.

Shoeing my trusty (and very patient) steed, Mr Mac.

We have a fantastic crew and are constantly laughing and pulling the piss out of each other which helps us to get through the at times long, tough days.

Amy and I with the tally board while drafting at Rodney’s. Biggest mobs of cows and weaners with a few steers, bulls and strangers in the mix.

I’m enjoying every moment, even those jobs which I resent, because I am learning new skills and challenging myself in ways I never thought possible.

Dismantling yards. These panels are awkward and heavy to lift but with the right technique they are manageable on your own.

If you are reading this blog then my take home message for you is “if you can dream, it you can do it”.  Don’t let anybody tell you can’t, because with the right attitude and a willingness to learn, anything is possible.

Finally I just want to take this opportunity to thank Cheryl and Peter Camp for allowing me to join the 2017 Kalyeeda Crew, it has been an experience I will never forget!!

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