Emily's experience working as a governess helped her to discover a love of teaching and the Kimberley. She hopes to combine these two passions by returning to teach in this incredible part of WA in the future. Here's how her story began...
My governess story started in 2016. I’d just finished a gap year in Darwin as an au-pair straight out of year 12 and felt I’d built up enough confidence to teach kids in the outback. I actually had no idea what it would entail until I spoke to the beautiful mother of two children who I ended up teaching for two years.
I’d been home from Darwin for over a month when my mum encouraged me to jump on gumtree and look for a governess job. I only applied for one. I’m not sure why it jumped out at me, maybe because it was such an honest advert. A few days later I was booking flights to Broome and once again saying ‘see ya next summer’ to my friends and family.
A few times in the weeks leading up to my flight I spoke to the mother (now an amazing friend) of the two children I would be working with. She didn’t sugar coat anything about the work, the children or the land because she knew I was traveling across the country for the job. I had to want to come for the real thing. This was the best thing for me, I didn’t get a hint of butterflies as I’d been given such an honest impression of what to expect. This early trust in my new employer made it much easier to get on the plane.
Before I set off I had a different kind of shopping list: work boots, torches, raincoat, wide brim hat, and several other things that I either didn’t own or didn’t normally pack for a trip away. I remember thinking why would I need a torch? I’m not afraid of the dark, she’ll be right. When I got to the station it was night and before I jumped out of the ute my boss said “don’t forget your torch for the snakes”. I’ve never been scared of snakes but it didn’t take long to realise they weren’t a rare sight around the station and a lot deadlier than where I’m from, so no, I never forgot my torch.
So far, I have only been a governess for that one family. I spent two years with them mainly in the Kimberley before we ventured to Arnhem Land, which made up the last few months of my journey. I have fallen so deeply in love with the Kimberley along with the family, and the people that I met, that now that I’m home all I want to do most days is just magic myself back up there for another year.
During my two years as a governess I found some things hard in the school house. After a while I had built a relationship with the boys and they felt like little brothers who I genuinely enjoyed spending my free time with. When it came to the occasions when they just didn’t want to do school work, it did become hard to be the strict ‘teacher’ and have them not like you for a while. But I knew as soon as we walked out of the school house door those feelings would go and they would just want to play in the sandpit with me until dark.
The easiest thing about station life is that you actually want to do the work. I could sit and weed until it was too dark to see, go to feed a poddy late at night or wake up before 5am to get breakfast ready for the camp because the cook was away or sick. You do it because you enjoy it not because its work.
Our station was three hours from Broome and on the edge of the Fitzroy River. We made a trip to town every now and then but the shopping list had to be big enough to justify the journey, it’s a big day there and back. Often town runs would involve a dry Woolworths pick up, Landmark, the mechanic, post office and maybe a quick lunch before heading back home.
Sometimes our trips to town were school related, either to Derby or Broome, for school camp. These were some of the best social events in town along with rodeos and race weekends. I didn’t find being so far from town isolating, we had around 20 staff on the station so there was always someone to hang out with and chat to. Everyone was there for the same reason, because they enjoyed it, so having that in common made it easy to form great friendships. However, the kids really were the best company. I never felt lonely on the station, in the school house or on the weekends without work to keep me busy. The community around all the station is awesome, once you’ve met someone the friendships come so naturally and you end up knowing everyone pretty soon.
I chose to come home to NSW to study so I can go back up north and teach in community schools. After being a governess I realised how much I loved teaching, along with the Kimberley.
If becoming a governess has crossed your mind, do it! If the smallest part of you wants to you should, there is no better experience. The kids teach you a million things, you’ll learn just as much as you expect to teach. Good luck future govies!!