JUDY CHRISTENSEN, 66, CAVE TOUR GUIDE, NORTH ROCKHAMPTON
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.