Fam­ily moves to re­mote NT sta­tion

NewsMail - Wide Bay Rural Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - AN­DREA DAVY An­drea.davy@ru­ral­weekly.com.au .

IN A 12-by-9 trailer, the Rush­ton fam­ily from Biloela packed all their be­long­ings to move to a re­mote sta­tion with its clos­est town about a six-hour drive away.

Ar­gadar­gada Sta­tion, a vast cat­tle prop­erty owned by the Ge­orgina Pas­toral Com­pany in the Barkly re­gion, was set to be­come the fam­ily of four’s new home af­ter years of liv­ing in town.

Kay and her hus­band Paul were keen to get back into sta­tion life, hav­ing worked in the cat­tle in­dus­try be­fore, but the 1500km shift would come as ad­just­ment for their teenage daugh­ters Darcy and Riley.

“Our girls were town raised. So it was a big shock for them,” Kay said.

Af­ter com­plet­ing a full sea­son on the prop­erty, and now liv­ing in Mt Isa for the time be­ing, Kay re­flected to the Ru­ral Weekly on her fam­ily’s mam­moth year in the Ter­ri­tory.

Re­turn­ing to the bush was a long jour­ney for the Rush­tons.

Al­though Kay and Paul have worked on iso­lated prop­er­ties in the past, they were both raised in Bris­bane.

“My mother has al­ways told me I was born a cen­tury too late,” Kay said.

“Within six month of meet­ing Paul we went bush.”

Both with heavy back­grounds with horses, the cou­ple found work on dif­fer­ent prop­er­ties through­out Queens­land, and even­tu­ally set­tled for a po­si­tion on McAl­lis­ter Sta­tion, si­t­u­ated near Nor­man­ton in the gulf of Queens­land.

“That’s where we re­ally felt at home. We loved it up there,” she said.

“Our honey­moon was be­ing flooded in for four months. It was just me and Paul and the chop­per pi­lot when he brought things in for us from time to time.”

With heavy hearts and af­ter more than two years on McAl­lis­ter, the cou­ple chose to move to cen­tral Queens­land to start a fam­ily and for Paul to take up a job with the Emer­ald Agri­cul­tural Col­lege.

Af­ter a few years there and the birth of their two chil­dren, Paul later found work in the mines, so even­tu­ally the fam­ily shifted to Biloela to be closer to site.

Al­though years passed since they had lived in the out­back, when the op­por­tu­nity came up to move back to the land last year, now with their daugh­ters in Year 11 and Year 8, they jumped at the op­por­tu­nity.

El­dest daugh­ter Darcy, who has plans to later study en­gi­neer­ing, opted to go to board­ing school in Mt Isa, and youngest child Riley was set to start School of the Air.

The fam­ily were greeted to the prop­erty with a roar­ing wet sea­son.

It wasn’t long un­til they set­tled into life on the land.

“There were three ringers, a bore run­ner, then my hus­band and my­self,” Kay said.

“All the mus­ter­ing was done with chop­pers, bikes and horses. When there was big muster on, the main prop­erty (Lake Nash) would bring in more staff.

“The prop­erty was re­ally beau­ti­ful. It went from sandy flats to beau­ti­ful iron­stone ridges, it was just the most amaz­ing place. You could drive for 10km on a bore run and the coun­try would change to­tally.”

Their daugh­ters soon had their own horses to ride.

“We tried to keep them busy, they could go and muck around with their horses,” she said.

“I think they found the re­stric­tions on the wi-fi very hard com­pared to town.

“And we got them call­ing their friends at night, be­cause there was no mo­bile phone re­cep­tion, and tex­ting seems to be the go.

“We were on gen­er­a­tor-based power too, so if some­thing hap­pened to the gen­er­a­tor you lost all power. That was hard for them to un­der­stand. It was just dif­fer­ent.”

Riley found a novel way to

The prop­erty was re­ally beau­ti­ful. It went from sandy flats to beau­ti­ful iron­stone ridges, it was just the most amaz­ing place...

— Kay Rush­ton

keep in con­tact with one of her bud­dies.

“She started a jour­nal with one of her friends from Biloela,” Kay said.

“So they would write and put pic­tures in it then mail it to the other, and then they would keep it for a month and then send it back. So it was like a pen-pal thing.

“It was just an­other way for them to keep in touch.”

De­spite Riley do­ing her best with School of the Air, Kay no­ticed that her grades were start­ing to slip.

“She was used to hav­ing her peers in the class­room and her teacher right there,” she said.

“Al­though School of the Air was giv­ing us so much sup­port, I think it’s re­ally hard to do it if you haven’t grown up with that type of learn­ing.

“Af­ter se­mes­ter one, we made the choice to send her to board­ing school as well.”

Switch­ing back to a more tra­di­tional type of class­room was the right move for her.

“She thrives in the en­vi­ron­ment of the class­room, she is back in the As and Bs and do­ing re­ally well now.”

While Kay re­calls their time in the Ter­ri­tory with good mem­o­ries, the fam­ily faced many chal­lenges that year.

Through­out 2016 both Kay and Paul on sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions needed to be hos­pi­talised. Kay’s ill­ness was a near-fa­tal event.

“I have pso­ri­atic arthri­tis and one of the med­i­ca­tions I was on went toxic on me. It just built up to a level in my body where it was toxic,” she said.

Al­ready on their way to town from Ar­gadar­gada, Kay just ar­rived in Mt Isa be­fore her sick­ness started to be­come scary.

“I barely got to town, we pulled up and dropped the

kids at my sis­ter’s place then we drove straight to the hospi­tal. I was in hospi­tal for three weeks af­ter that,” she said.

“I had a won­der­ful team of doc­tors there who wouldn’t let up un­til they worked out what was wrong with me.”

Af­ter re­cov­er­ing, Kay re­turned to the sta­tion, but within a few days Paul fell ill and re­quired a rushed

trans­port with the Royal Fly­ing Doc­tor Ser­vice to hospi­tal.

When Paul was away, Kay had to step out­side her cook­ing and all-rounder role to fill her hus­band’s shoes.

“I would start at 3.30am, go over and start cook­ing, then while they were eat­ing their break­fast I would rush back and get my wash­ing done. Then I would race back and clean the kitchen and then by that time they were get­ting their horses in so I would go over and get on my horse and muster all day.

“Then come home and cook din­ner.

“Af­ter that I would do all the pa­per work for the day, the tal­lies from the pad­docks, then crawl into bed about 11pm … then wake up and do it all again.

“It was tax­ing on the body. I was ex­tremely ex­hausted but it was a good tired.”

The health scares took a toll on Darcy, so to­wards the end of Au­gust the fam­ily made the call to spend the next year in Mt Isa un­til she grad­u­ated from high school. Paul has re­turned to work in the min­ing in­dus­try and Kay has stepped back into her old role as a teacher’s aide.

“We will stay here un­til she grad­u­ates. She only has one more year to go. If the right job comes along af­ter that we will be happy to go bush again ... and we have a lot less stuff to move this time.”

TREE CHANGE: Kay Rush­ton moved with her fam­ily to work on re­mote NT cat­tle prop­erty Ar­gadar­gada Sta­tion.


Paul Rush­ton with his daugh­ters Darcy and Riley.

Ar­gadar­gada Sta­tion's power was run from a gen­er­a­tor only.

Riley Rush­ton loved ex­plor­ing the prop­erty on her school hol­i­days.


WET WEL­COM­ING: When the fam­ily first moved to Ar­gadar­gada Sta­tion they be­came flooded in for sev­eral days.

Riley Rush­ton com­plet­ing School of the Air.

Paul Rush­ton giv­ing a hands-on les­son to his daugh­ter on Ar­gadar­gada Sta­tion.

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