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!!
Share your story
Calling all governesses, remote parents and home tutors past and present. We would love to hear a story from your time as a governess and/or your time as a parent of a SOTA student.
Whether you want to write about a particular memorable time, the whole experience or one day in particular, it's up to you. Perhaps you developed a new outlook, embraced everything station life had to offer or maybe you couldn't wait to get back to the city. Another option would be to write about a passion or hobby you have on the station.
We would also love to hear about different parts of Australia as so far we haven't strayed far from the Kimberley.
If you'd like to share your story send it to email@example.com along with any questions you have.
Thanks and we look forward to hearing from you!
I feel incredibly lucky to have lived and worked in the Kimberley for three years. This beautiful area was my first home in Australia and there will always be a part of me that wants to return.
The Kimberley is the northernmost region in Western Australia, it boarders the Northern Territory, the Pilbara (WA), the Indian Ocean and the Timor Sea. Its landscape is rugged and wild with rocky outcrops and steep gorges. The flatter, grassy plains are home to many cattle stations and pastoral leases.
The region has a unique demographic, it's home to a young workforce and a significant aboriginal population.
Over three times the size of England, the Kimberley is vast and has a population density of around 1 person per 12.5 square kilometers. To put that in context, the UK has around 3075 inhabitants for the same area. There are only six towns in the Kimberley but around 250 aboriginal communities*. The remote wildness and unspoiled beauty of the Kimberley makes it one of the world's last frontiers.
During my three years I worked on a large cattle station located an hour from Derby and approximately three hours from Broome. It was an great location, near enough to Broome to pop in for a weekend at the beach but far enough away from town to forget about civilization and embrace station life.
The cattle station was diverse in its landscape. From the homestead you would see large open flood plains totally submersed in the wet season and often still covered with water by April or May. While the water lasts it is possible to see the station's own staircase to the moon.
As you move away from the station quarters, you see levee banks running alongside nearby roads, the banks are often coated with a carpet of freshwater crocodiles, basking in the sun, who rapidly slide into the water upon your approach. The river and levee banks are also home to thousands of birds, flocks of pelicans take off at once while brolgas wander around the grazing cattle in the paddocks. Hawks circle and swoop above you as you drive along the orange dirt road crisscrossed with snake trails and wallaby tracks.
Boab trees are symbolic of the Kimberley and grew in abundance all over the station. When I first saw these bulging gnarly trees I perhaps wouldn't have descried them as beautiful but I soon fell in love with the sight of them and their their rain-signalling blossom.
I spent many weekends at the creek, seeking out shade and throwing in hand lines. I managed to catch exactly one barra over the three years. I'm not the most enthusiastic fisher, it's more about the experience (sitting back with a cold drink).
Some days we would take a boat out to explore the waterways further. To begin with I was fairly relaxed about the possibility of saltwater crocodiles. A trip to the Malcolm Douglas Crocodile Park swiftly changed my attitude. Saltwater crocodiles are terrifying, enormous, sneaky killers. If one decides you take its fancy, you have next to no chance.
I only had one near encounter with a saltwater crocodile. We were out on the boat and I needed to make a quick trip to the river bank. I hopped out on a grassy bank without thinking and a few moments later waded back out to the boat. We continued on for a short while before doubling back to return home. As we passed the grassy bank we saw it was now home to an enormous saltie dozing in the sun.
Other weekends were spent heading to the pristine coastline north of Broome or exploring the station, finding new and better fishing spots or camping with friends. The evening entertainment, when not at the station social club, involved heading up one of the few hills to see the sunset, or watching a controlled bush fire blaze into the night.
There is so much to see in the Kimberley. I loved Tunnel creek, Lake Argyle, visits to Sun Cinema and Broome markets, Norvel Gallery in Derby and Geike Gorge at Fitzroy crossing. Rodeo season (roughly from July - September) is a great time to catch up with friends and neighbours while watching the exhilarating bull rides and buck jumps. The highlight to the social calendar was a day at the races in Broome, always a great excuse to scrub the red dirt away and get dressed up and hopefully win a few dollars along the way.
The Kimberley certainly draws people from all walks of life. I met many wonderful people during my time there and felt a strong sense of community spirit, even if that community is spread over an area the size of California.
While the heat is oppressive for many months of the year and the build up (around September -November) tests the tempers of even the most laid back people, the hottest months have their own charm. The station tends to be quieter and more laid back with more evenings spent at the pool or outside in the evening watching the clouds build up and hoping for a cooling downpour.
I miss watching the seasons change, having an outdoor bath full of cold water and still feeling hot, hearing the millions of bugs and crickets, the unbelievable colours the sky turns in the wet season. I miss watching the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets I've ever seen, the indigenous stories and culture that continue to pulse through the region and, of course, I miss the people I met along the way.
Aside from all of these things the Kimberley has something else to offer, something unique and powerful, a special quality that I cant quite describe but that exists all the same. The Kimberley is beautiful, exhausting, inspiring, infuriating and emotional and there is nowhere quite like it on Earth.
* This figure is a bit misleading as many are only used seasonally or currently unused, if you're interested, more information can be found here.
Charmaine Grott has worked on and off as a governess since 1992. In this time she has nurtured many children, guiding them through their daily lessons in and out of the schoolroom and helping them to achieve their potential.
Charmaine was kind enough to answer some questions about life as a governess and how the role has changed over time. We hope to hear more from Charmaine in the future as she no doubt has hundreds of stories to tell and can offer a great insight into the role of a governess past and present.
On different roles...
I always wanted to be a teacher but didn't have the opportunity to do that. I've always loved the bush and read about being a governess when I was younger but my Mum wanted me to be a bit older than 17 before I tried it. So when it looked like I would become redundant in 1992 I applied for govie jobs. I didn't get the first three jobs I applied for but the day I lost my job I was accepted for a governess job so away I went!
My first govie job was in Queensland. I worked as a governess for the next three years then went to live in England where I worked as a nanny. I came back to Australia in 1996 and took a role as a nanny/station-hand for 12 months and then went back to being a govie until April 2001. I’ve worked in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
I came to Ruby Plains (in the Kimberley) in October 2001 as a cook as I needed a break away from kids but that didn't last long as twins were born in October 2002 and I've been here ever since.
I continued to work as a cook until the twin boys started Kindy and I went back into the schoolroom. I had the boys with me a lot in the kitchen where we did lots of things you would do in day care...especially painting (with water) and playdough and lots of cooking.
During this time I did a bit of study. I obtained an Advanced Certificate from TAFE in Home Tutoring, a Diploma in Children's Writing form The Australian College of Journalism and I started studying my Early Childhood Teaching but I never finished that!
On daily life...
It's busy! I have long days as I do other jobs as well as teaching. Before school I look after the animals, feed the chooks, pigs, goats and other creatures in our menagerie.
School days vary depending on what's happening. Most days we start school at 7am and finish at 12pm. But some days we start at 6.30am and finish at 2.30pm, especially if we've got art or cooking to do. We do school from the Northern Territory so there is an hour and half time difference which is why we start so early.
After school I spend time with the kids, though there's only one now as the twins have gone to boarding school. I help out cleaning the visitors quarters, doing the station store and social club and any other jobs that need doing. I collect the eggs and lock the animals up again of an afternoon. I usually knock off about 5pm. I like keeping busy. Sometimes I fill in for the cook as well so I could be in the kitchen cooking tea.
On changing roles..
When I started I had little kids and a baby so a lot of my time was spent with them after school helping out. I also had a lot more prep to do then as there was lots of cutting out and getting things ready for the next day.
Now that the kids are grown up and there is only one in the schoolroom I'm a bit freer. I don't need to do as much prep and certainly don't spend hours marking work or uploading it to the school server. When the boys were doing high school this could take me hours to do. Also, if they had assignments to do we could spend all afternoon working on them.
On career highlights...
I'd have to say seeing my previous students all grown up and having families of their own, I've kept in touch with all of them.
It's also been pretty special being with one family and seeing the kids go from babies to young, achieving adults. Though I still think the best thing is seeing any child suddenly "getting it" you know that light bulb moment when they first learn to read or spell a hard word or remember their nine times tables.
I love my job. I love living where I live and I love having the privilege of helping to mould a little person into a bigger person. It's a big responsibility. But don't worry there have been some really shitty days where I wanted to chuck my job and just pack up and run away. It's not all roses every day, some days it's pure hell.
Oh the bloody internet!!! Computers that don't work and teachers who don't return work quickly or give positive feedback. Also, children who don't want to be in the schoolroom.
On free time..
I read a lot and also sew patchwork quilts. I used to go out on a bore run every now and then and sometimes in the holidays go out in the camp cooking or working. I don't do that much now, I'm too old!!
On advice for future governesses..
Go for it. But do try and stay a whole year if you can. It's hard on the kids not having the continuity of the same person for the year.
Don't be afraid to ask questions. The only stupid question is the one you don't ask, communication is important. Talk to the parents about what's going on in the schoolroom. Talk to the teachers if you don't understand something or need help. But remember you're there to do an important job. Having fun and getting out and about is good but your job is to teach the kids first and foremost.
It’s the most rewarding but challenging job I've ever had but I still love it. I don't necessarily love all the technology as I'm a bit ‘old school’ but it’s the way of the future for kids of today though they still have to learn how to read and how to write.