Deborah’s principal path
The Lloyd family have left their mark on the district’s history, not least in the form of Deborah, a student and then principal of the high school. Pam Willis Burden sat down to hear the story.
One of the best-known people in Douglas Shire must surely be Deborah Kachel. As well as being principal of Mossman High School, Deborah was born in Mossman Hospital and grew up here.
Her grandfather William Charles arrived in Daintree in 1935, and in later years her “Nanny” Amelia Lloyd and grandfather operated the post office and phone exchange in Miallo, across the road from the school.
Deborah remembers “Nanny” plugging cords into the switchboard to join caller to receiver, saying ‘Connecting you now’ and after one minute asking ‘Do you want to extend?’
Deborah and her older brother Warren rode bikes all the way from their Somerset cane farm to Miallo School, and later travelled to school by car with their sisters Karen, Avril and Desley. They all played on the clay bank at Miallo School, sliding into the river and munching on lilypilly, quandongs and wild hibiscus that grew along the banks.
Marano’s had a general store where the fuel station is at the turning to Miallo, and families could ‘book up’ their groceries until they could pay. Bread and meat were delivered to the farms.
When Deborah started at Mossman High School she was allowed to go to the picture theatre which is now Pinjara Place in Mill Street, but Mr Plemenuk the manager was very strict and shone his torch on the naughty ones and made them sit on a stool up the back.
All the daughters shared a room at home and they all got the mumps at the same time. Unfortunately for sister Karen, it made her deaf at the age of nine. She was sent to a school for the deaf in Brisbane to learn to lip read and has made a career working with deaf people, becoming CEO of Deaf Australia. The family joked that she shut her eyes if she didn’t want to hear something.
Deborah went to boarding school at St Anne’s in Townsville for Grades 11 and 12, before attending Kelvin Grove Teachers’ College in Brisbane.
Fulfilling a three year bond to the government, single teachers could be sent anywhere and a short while after graduating Deborah was transferred to Bamaga and later Kilkivan, where she met her future husband Brian.
They married at St David’s in Mossman, where she was baptised, confirmed and was ordained as a Deacon in 2013.
Deborah took time off from teaching to have sons Bradley and Clint, while studying for her Bachelor of Education degree.
She worked in the family’s businesses at the Top End Restaurant above the newsagency and in the South Mossman Caltex and Raintrees service stations.
Then she began a ceramics business, making and teaching ceramics as well as selling dinnerware and casserole dishes.
In 1986 the Home Economics teacher at Mossman resigned, and Deborah went back into the classroom, teaching. Before long she was asked to become Senior Mistress. Few women were in administration and she enjoyed the leadership role, helping the female students reach their potential in the classroom.
When Ken Gorton the principal retired at the age of 55, his job was advertised without any suitable responses.
Deborah was asked to apply and was appointed in 1993. She has been the principal ever since.
Her son Brad started at the High School in the same year. It was around this time that she completed a Graduate Diploma in Educational Administration.
Mossman High School has 8 primary feeder schools and 650 students of many nationalities, including 119 indigenous pupils.
Deborah believes everyone is born with a gift and her aim is to help every student realise theirs. As there are no other high schools in the area, she believes it’s essential all students at Mossman High have the opportunity to engage in educational experiences that allow them to develop the knowledge, skills and qualities they need for the future.
Her dream for the school is to build a new administration building, and a performing arts centre for drama, dance, film, television and new media.
More trade training facilities would also be welcome to support the school-based apprenticeships.
In her busy life, Deborah is president of the Leukaemia Foundation and conducts a youth group to teach young people to give back to the community.
In 2009 she started Pink in the Tropics with three others as a support group for women with breast cancer.
She also makes retro and vintage aprons with Jolene, her daughter-in-law, to sell in local markets.
There are four generations of the family living in Douglas. Deborah’s parents Syd and Pally Lloyd, Deborah and Brian and son Clint and his wife Jolene, and their two small children Maia and Mikah.
Deborah Kachel in her office (above). Inset: The Lloyd sisters on their way to Mossman Show, late 1960s: Karen, Avril, Desley, Deborah