Or­di­nary people


The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - UPFRONT - ELISSA LAWRENCE

Be­fore work­ing at the caves, my life was on the land. I grew up on a cat­tle property near Grace­mere [9km west of Rock­hamp­ton]. When I was 19, I mar­ried a gra­zier and we moved onto a cat­tle property near Ro­se­vale, Ip­swich, for ten years, then to a brah­min cat­tle property at Banana, be­tween Biloela and Moura, for an­other 11 years. We were mar­ried 21 years but the mar­riage failed. We sold the property and went our own ways. I moved to Rock­hamp­ton with my three teenage chil­dren at the time – my kids stuck by me – and bought a house in town be­cause I didn’t re­ally know what else to do.

A job came up as a tour guide at Cam­moo Caves [22km north of Rock­hamp­ton], even though I’d never even been in a cave. It was a big learn­ing curve but I liked meet­ing the tourists and got to love it. Af­ter three years, the caves went selfguided and I moved to Capri­corn Caves [3km from Cam­moo]. The staff there have be­come like fam­ily.

I lost my son Brett nine years ago when he died sud­denly, aged 33. Ev­ery­one at the caves was so good to me at that time. At the fu­neral, they formed a big ring around me and joined hands. I knew they were all there for me. I’ll never for­get it.

I sup­pose I can say I’ve be­come stronger for what hap­pened. My daugh­ter Vicki, 44, and son Egon, 41, are in Rocky with me and I have seven teenage grand­chil­dren, in­clud­ing three boys from Brett. Brett car­ries on with his sons.

Each week, I work two or three days at the caves, do­ing two one-hour tours a day. I’m also the re­tail sales man­ager in charge of the sou­venirs and for a few years I was the wed­ding co­or­di­na­tor. Re­cently I vis­ited the Snowy Moun­tains and the Yar­ran­go­b­illy Caves in Mt Kosciuszko Na­tional Park [NSW]. Even on hol­i­days I’m in caves. At home, I love gar­den­ing and in­te­rior dec­o­rat­ing and I’ve been grad­u­ally do­ing up my home – it’s one of my favourite ac­tiv­i­ties when I’m not at work.

I’m es­pe­cially close to my sis­ter Minette, 67. We meet once a week for lunch and reg­u­larly chat on the phone. I want to keep work­ing. While they’re still writ­ing nice com­ments about me in the vis­i­tors’ book, I’ll keep go­ing.

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