Desert Ed

Host: Mt. Sarah Station
Written by Mia Ackland – Governess, Mt. Sarah Station.

When you wake up every morning feeling excited for what the day will bring, you know you’re in the right job.

Hello! I’m Mia, the Governess at Mount Sarah Station and I supervise Lucy (five years old) who started reception this year through Port Augusta School of the Air (SOTA). Also banging on the door half the time is George (three) and Jack (one). They are the most outgoing, enthusiastic, crazy kids I know.

My life as a govie started in January this year. I had no bloody idea what I was getting myself into when I said yes to the job. All I knew was that I was going to be a long way from home and that it had something to do with kids! I was extremely lucky to have Kirsty ask me to be her Govie. Funnily enough, Kirsty was actually my teacher when I was in year seven and eight, now I’m supervising her kids!

I had absolutely no idea where Cam, Kirsty, and the crew lived. I literally jumped in the car with Kirsty after SOTA induction week and off we went, straight up the guts of South Australia. Taking about nine hours, over every hill and grid I was looking for the “Mount Sarah Station” sign. Even though I grew up in a rural area, I was eager to find out what the big cattle station life was all about!

Kirsty, Lucy, George, Jack, and myself.

The job requires you to be extremely flexible, to have the ‘go-getter’ attitude, and the ability to be able to ‘just go with the flow!’ We have done trips to Alice Springs and Coober Pedy where I have been squished right in the back of the car — legs wrapped around my head and prams and bags filled right to the roof! You spend a huge amount of time with the family you work for — you eat together, travel huge distances in the car together, socialise together, and live altogether and I love it. You really do become part of the family.

School life on the station is unlike anything else. Getting up early with the kids piled in the back of the car before breakfast, to drop the gyro (gyrocopter ­– an aircraft used to help muster cattle) pilot off and watch it take off for a day’s mustering is just one of the many things that the kids find to be completely normal out here!

Gyro taking off in the morning for mustering.

Throughout a normal day of school there are often interruptions whether it be cattle trucks coming or going, Cam and the boys bringing back a killer or a kangaroo, or even just the constant flow of different visitors — it really is the beauty of doing school in the outback!

I remember a few weeks back, Lucy and I were in the school room and heard the biggest down pour of rain. Instantly school was over as we ran outside to see a sight we hadn’t seen for months. The kids stripped down in the nude and we all ran down to the creek to play in the water — which soon lead to a mud fight! Not your average school day!

Lucy, George, Yogi – the blue healer and I playing in the creek after 70mls of rain!

The other aspect of schooling while living on the station is that Lucy isn’t just learning her ABC and 123, she is also learning so many life skills that many kids may never experience. There are people from all walks of life including backpackers, the locals in the Aboriginal community of Oodnadatta as well as all sorts of different visitors that she gets to mix with, I never thought I’d see so many people living in the middle of the desert.  She also gets to see the day to day running’s of the stations and seems to know what’s going where and why. The beauty is that even though she is predominantly involved with the adults, you see her at  SOTA face to face events and she’s just one of the kids – mixing with a heap of others that probably lead similar lives.

People think ‘it must be boring being out there with no shops, no people for kilometres, and nothing to do’, but they are completely wrong! This has been the busiest year I’ve experienced yet! The first school term we only had a couple of weekends home because every other weekend was filled with events for school in town, gymkhanas, and catch-ups at the other stations! It was a big effort trying to fit in school.

Extracurricular Activities.

The year has brought so many great experiences as well as learning curves, both in the school room and life in general. Every time we drive somewhere and see cattle, George teaches me which one is a bull or what is a steer or a heifer. At first I would ask “How do you know that?” and he would burst out “It has big balls!” or “No balls!”

Local doctor Lucy with her trusty assistant Jack and Maggie the dog.

Being a govie has opened my eyes to many things. All through my schooling I was adamant I would never consider going to university.  But my thoughts on this have changed having just been accepted into Charles Darwin University for a Bachelor of Primary Education. Mad, I know as I’m not sure where I’m going to have time with all the things happening on the station as well as the busy social life and school. But this year I have found my passion in seeing kids grow and develop, and the excitement and glow on their face when they learn something new. The year has been unbelievably rewarding, knowing you’ve made that bit of a difference.

Thank goodness I said “Yes” to the job!