My very first day as a governess there was a knock on the door of the schoolroom door. I turned my head to see my boss holding up a massive python for me to see. If you had told me then that my year on Nita Downs would be one of the best of my life I would’ve laughed and called you crazy.
To say I was nervous is an understatement – I was petrified. I was a born and raised city girl. I liked nipping out to cafes and going to the movies, loved going shopping or out to dinner with my friends. And yet when the opportunity presented itself for me to work on a half a million-acre cattle station three hours south of Broome I just knew I had to say yes. I didn’t really have any idea what to expect and don’t think I’d ever seen a real cow before but I was ready for an adventure.
My station life was a little different to many govies'; there was only the family, one station worker and I occupying the massive space. I had to mentally prepare myself for true isolation and find ways to keep occupied when not working. I read hundreds of books that year, and powered through Netflix like nobody's business. But more than anything I had fun. Sure being the govie of just one year-four student was difficult sometimes but I got to embrace my inner child like nothing else. I made more slime and baked more cakes (on a bbq) that year than in the rest of my life combined.
A typical working day started at 7.15 am when L and I would log on for ‘Morning Muster’ where all the KSOTA (Kimberley School of the Air) kids from around the region would chat and update each other on what was happening. My favourite memory of this is when the students all exclaimed in wonder upon seeing a picture of a Los Angeles traffic jam and L said “Wow! I didn’t know that many cars even existed!” I remember being struck by how alien these kids found a traffic jam when to me it was their lives that were alien. We would follow muster by a few hours of lessons; maths, science, English depending on the day and then 'smoko' at 9.30am. I have no idea why smoko is called smoko but it usually involved me convincing L to eat the breakfast he had been to tired to eat before school. We would do schoolwork until 12pm at which point L would head off to have lunch with his parents if they were on the station.
The afternoons were ours. Sometimes we did more schoolwork but usually not. We went on walks that lasted hours, dragging Bob the dog along with us. We experimented making breads and doing science projects. We read books and built lego and rode horses. Those afternoons were the best part of being a govie and easily made all the morning bargaining about schoolwork and occasional tantrums worthwhile.
I had my 20th birthday on Nita and we celebrated with a ‘killer’ and ribs for dinner. I remember how proud I was skyping my family that night and telling them – they thought I was crazy.
Things that would have scared me before began to seem normal and became good stories to whip out at parties – frogs in the toilet, a snake in the washing machine, bushfires on the horizon. I made some amazing memories that year and credit it as being a time that I really embraced myself and became independent. Driving a six-hour road trip into town for your groceries and only realising you forgot peanut butter when you get home is enough to make anyone resilient! I can only recommend being a govie – you will grow and change and make some amazing memories plus meet some of the most honest and hardworking people in the world.