The “Don’t Do” list

Host: Liveringa Station
Written by Catherine – Home Tutor, Liveringa Station.

The education of our children has always been my biggest challenge whilst living this beautiful station life. We are so incredibly fortunate, though, to have had a succession of wonderful Home Tutors. Catherine, a trained teacher from the UK, is with us for the second year now – and we are grateful, for so many reasons that she remains with us! She is funny, intelligent, caring, and wise and like all past Home Tutors, she has become a wonderful family friend. 

This is Cath’s story about how she became a “Govy” in Australia . . .

– Karen

“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.
And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless.
We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”
– John Steinbeck

As a teacher, detailed planning becomes part of your daily existence. There are lesson plans, plans for where you would like each student to be at the end of the week or term or year. You plan for field trips, assemblies, camps and performances. Then you evaluate your plans, did everything work out ok? Were the targets met? What should be done differently next time? The children are expected to get in on it too. But plans are there for a reason aren’t they? They help us get to where we want to go, be it in a story or in real life, it’s good to be prepared; it’s good to have a plan isn’t it?

In early January 2014 I stood, swaying slightly, in my friend’s London home. ‘I’ll see you in six months’ I insisted for the second or third time. We’d agreed that she, Phyllis, shouldn’t get up the next morning to see me off, partly because I was getting a very early flight to Perth but mostly because the sensible decision to go to bed at a reasonable time had turned into a lot of wine drinking. Our conversation had started to become circular with me insisting I’d see her soon and Phyllis being equally insistent when telling me, ‘You never know what might happen, stop writing things off’.

2.1 Cath and Phyllis (Small)Cath and Phyllis on the night before Cath was due to fly out to Australia.

I stumbled off to bed wondering why she didn’t believe me. Couldn’t she see that I was a woman with a plan? This plan was to spend half a year in Australia as a kind of career break as after six years teaching in various countries I felt burned out and disillusioned with my career choice. I thought I’d try out a few different jobs and see some of the country before heading back to Europe, maybe with a new career path.

Accompanying this plan for Australia was a mental list of things that would not be happening, a “Don’t Do” list. For starters, there would be no teaching. I wanted to leave my job behind for the whole of the six months so that I could gain some perspective. I was also adamant there would be no relationships and definitely no falling in love. To add to this, I’d pretty much decided against living in a remote area after a recent bad experience living and working in Borneo. Finally, I had absolutely no desire to stay longer in Australia, it was too far from friends and family and I couldn’t see myself moving to any country on a permanent basis.

I arrived in Perth safely guarded by all the things that would not be happening and my trip started well, I moved into a great house with lovely housemates. Then I picked up a terrible job as a charity fundraiser which involved a lot of high fiving. I lasted three days. Three days was all it took for me to gain a little perspective on teaching. Standing in a shopping centre harassing strangers for money – money that will more than likely end up being used to pay someone like me to stand in a shopping centre and harass more strangers for money – makes you realise how good it feels to have a normal job.

I’d heard about governess jobs and it seemed like it might be a kinder form of teaching, maybe it would help me to remember my reasons for wanting to be a teacher in the first place and maybe I didn’t need to adhere to my “Don’t Do” list quite so strictly.

My phone interview with Karen confirmed that Liveringa was the place for me. Her enthusiasm for her children’s education and the way she spoke about past governesses gave me a good feeling about my tentative steps back into the field of education.

I said a sad goodbye to my lovely Perth housemates, ‘I’ll see you in six months’ I continued to insist. ‘Haha, I bet you fall in love with a jackeroo and don’t come back,’ they replied. I laughed back, mainly because I didn’t know what a jackeroo was.

I arrived at Liveringa still trying to decide if I was making the right decision. I’d made so many questionable decisions in the past I wasn’t sure if I could trust my gut instinct that this was a good idea.

It was February, still baking hot but beautiful and green. The flood water surrounding the station gave the impression of the sea being nearby and it soon felt like home.

‘Wow, I’m going to find it really hard to leave in six months’ I thought to my idiot self, still somehow convinced. The remains of the plan went out the window a few weeks later when I met someone who changed things quite dramatically. Yes, I went and fell in love with a jackaroo (or ringer as seems to be the preferred term).

2.2 Cath and Jake (Small)Jake and Cath on the Fitzroy river which borders Liveringa.

A year and a half later and I am still at Liveringa and Australia is looking a lot more permanent for me. Clearly nothing really went to plan and my “Don’t Do” list became more of a shopping list but I’m very grateful as I genuinely love my life. I live in a beautiful home in an incredible part of the world with someone I love. I get to notice the sunrise every day and spend weekends fishing, horse riding, or just exploring. I’ve realised how much I love living in a remote area and how my past experiences are just that. I go for runs with my dog and stop to take endless photos that do no justice to the landscape and I often wonder what luck brought me here.

2.3 Cooper (Small)Cath and Jake’s dog “Cooper” – out on a run on the floodplains of Liveringa with Cath.

2.4 mouleman view (Small)The view from Mouleman hill, close to Inkata (home base). Looking over the wetlands at sunset.

My job as a governess is the balance in teaching that I was looking for. Don’t get me wrong, there are frustrations, but not having to deal with school politics, classes of thirty, staffrooms, and general interference has its real upsides.

2.5 Cath walking kids to school (Small)Cath walking the boys to school on the first day in the new school room this year.

I often think of my friend’s drunken advice and how insistent she was that I stayed open to all possibilities. There have been times when I have almost forced myself to stick to my original plan. I nearly refused to look at governess jobs even though they interested me, I nearly stuck to my original six month term at Liveringa for fear of the decisions that I would have to make later down the line but I’m so glad that I didn’t.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEarly morning looking through the boabs towards the Grant Ranges.

The following is a poem written by Jake Weincke, Cath’s partner, and one of our long-term employees. He has worked for two years with us as a ringer and this year has stepped up to be Jed’s right hand man here at the Inkata yards where all the cattle are drafted, dipped, weighed, and trucked to their various destinations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASunrise at Inkata, Liveringa.

Dawn breaks and there is light
Can’t replicate or fight
Each day’s paths
Already lit with tasks
The absence of monotony
Seeming without gravity
Time can be frozen in the air
Just a clue of what’s passed there
A thousand hooves moments before
Gates shutting, cattle running, blood pumping and more
Living this life for these things we adore
The work, the love, the animals, is what it’s all for
The draft, the dip, the weigh, the dust
All must be conquered before the dusk
For the light will give out
Of that there is no doubt.

Written by Jake Weincke

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHorses in the yards on sunset.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChopper flying in at sunset.