My Govie Life, Courtney Sonter

What is a Govie? Well I suppose we are the tutor, the lunch maker, the cleaner-upper, the tear wiper, the hug giver, the organiser, the chore reminder, the IT expert, the bandaid applier, the expert in watching movies, the snack provider, the one who gets covered in paint and at times the mean one (according to the kids). So in short, we are basically in-home-tutors and ‘babysitters’ for kids on stations.

Hey there, my name is Cortney and I live and work on Country Downs Station in the beautiful Kimberley in WA Australia. I started this job as a govie to two boys (who I will introduce later on) in January of 2018 on the other station the family own called Emu Creek Station, in the Pilbara, which surprisingly doesn’t run emus, it’s all about the cattle.

Emu Creek is situated on the Yannarie River, which was a god send come those days where the temperature would crawl up towards 50˚C. It was such a nice and neat place to live for a few months before the 16-hour trip up north back to Country Downs Station.

This trip was unlike any other I’ve been on (and I’ve done a fair few). It consisted of one truck, one container, two cars, a trailer, three dogs, two cats, 10 or so guppies (yes, the fish had to come) and two kids. It defiantly wasn’t easy, but it was well worth the experience!

I’ve now been on Country Downs for roughly five months and the change in landscape and agriculture is unbelievable compared to the Pilbara. You would think you’d gone to another country, it’s hard to believe you’re in the same state.

I have been lucky enough to help around the station with work such as bore runs (which I found out can almost last a whole day); learning how to do fencing (and becoming quite good at massaging my own hands afterwards); general upkeep such as moving trees by using bull-bars on the cars as bulldozers and gaining general knowledge that I wouldn’t have thought I would ever learn just from living on a station. Along with these tasks, I also have everyday jobs that need to be done. The main one is taking care of the two boys, W (9) and R (6), during the day and making sure they get back to mum without too many bumps or bruise’s (they are boys, some things are just unavoidable).

The boys and I also have the chores of feeding the ducks, chocks, chicks, pigs, cats, fish, goats, poddy calves, and when they show up, giving some food to the horses. We also light the donkey every afternoon so that hot showers can be available.

Being a 19-year-old on a station has its ups and downs and I’m lucky enough to only be 90kms away from town (Broome). On the weekends, I travel to town and enjoy my time camping, going out, being with friends, going to the beach, getting kebabs and pizza and just being around people and having fun!

As I am the only worker out on the station, it can get lonely as times during the week, but you learn to enjoy your own company and find pastimes such as colouring in, reading, watching movies and journaling. In saying this, the family I work for have been amazing in making sure that I feel at home and can be myself, as crazy as that may be, and within no time I was feeling quite comfortable at my new home for this year.

As we are 90kms out of town, going to a normal school isn’t really an option. So, for schooling, the boys have on-air lessons with Kimberley School of the Air (KSOTA) for an hour a day Monday-Friday. For the remainder of the school day, I work on ‘set work’ sent by the school. Their schooling hours are 8am-2pm.

Coming from a normal school setting, witnessing first-hand on-air schooling is quite different in the sense that the boys don’t have that transition from home to school as they live where they learn. This can be difficult for the kids at times and getting used to it can be a struggle but having a separate school room is defiantly an advantage!

Another down side to School of the Air is that the kids don’t have that social aspect that they normally would and, from experience, this can be vital to growing a child’s mind. In saying this KSOTA does their best to provide this aspect with school camps twice a year where everyone comes to one place and do activities that involve team work and thinking skills.

So far, we’ve had one school camp in Broome and it was a lot of fun! Not only did the boys get to catch up with their friends, but I also meet other govies in the area and made friendships of my own. It was a good learning experience as I got to speak to other govies and realise that I wasn’t alone. We swapped strategies and talked about different ways to approach the school work etc. It really was great to see the kids interacting and having fun with their school friends.

As I moved across from my family and home in Kingaroy Queensland, deciding to peruse this job and make the move was a big one, but sometimes you just bite the bullet and give it a go and I’m glad I did! My family and friends are very supportive of me and a big eye-opener that I’ve gained is people do get busy in their own lives, but the important people will always be there, even if it’s months between talking and seeing each other.

Another aspect that has taken some getting used to is learning to separate home and work life. This was and still can be a challenge for me as I live where I work, so being able to have that mental separation doesn’t just come overnight. I think getting away on weekends has helped and by living in such a family orientated workspace has helped as well.

I’m not going to say that it’s all rainbows and sparkles, I have my days where I question myself as to why I did this and start counting the hours until the weekend, but then there are the days where I can’t stop smiling and remember how lucky I am that I get to work and explore a beautiful part of the country and work in such a different environment. This experience has helped me grow as a person in ways I would have never imagined! It has also opened my eyes to many different experiences and I’ve gained some interesting knowledge along the way.  

I’ll finish this blog by saying this… You never stop learning and you don’t know if you’ll like it or not unless you give it a good go. So go out, be spontaneous and have a blast on this adventure that is life!

If you would love an experience like Courtney’s, Country Down’s are currently seeking their next governess for 2019. You can see the job advert here.