My race home against the internal land division closures in Western Australia

Way back in march, I was out through a fairly anxious time due to the unfolding pandemic. I recorded my thoughts and feeling and have decided to self publish them here:

I took on an 8 week stint at Mount House station in the Kimberley. I’m recently married and living and working on our farm in the Wheatbelt. However, no employment for a year left us deciding to let me give station cooking in a relief capacity a go. Finding the Mount House job was a God-send.

I traveled with my dog (Nola). We flew up to Broome and the mrs manager picked us two up. So the return journey is that: drive to Broome; fly to Perth.
In February, Corona was still a joke in the station country. A virus named after a beer you need lime to enjoy. And when I first arrived, I honestly thought the virus, while serious would be like Ebola or sars… Australia will be right mate, we’re an island don’t you know. Anyway, in early March, I booked flights for April 5. As the pandemic unfolded, I started wondering if 5th April would be too late. So I developed a few personal plans for all the what ifs I (and my husband) could think of; Like what if I get stuck on the station all year. At what point should I jump, could my partner just come bore running up here?

However, We felt strongly that we needed to put a crop in this year, and my new family and my sister need us near by too. I discussed the situation with my boss and we agreed I would need to jump when the signs indicated a major lock down within Western Australia.

the zombie apocalypse came to the station:

We were starting to notice the pressure on the economy on the station. Mount House runs on a fortnightly truck delivery of all things fresh, frozen and pantry.
For the last 2 orders I had not received certain things like bacon, snags, cream, pasta.
While these items are still luxuries on stations, it’s not fun running out of bacon. We still had a fair whack of uht cream. But sometimes you just need the fresh stuff for whipping.

I basically switched over to rationing the limited stuff, and impressed myself when I made pasta carbonara using lasagna sheets. We were now completely out of pasta.

Mrs boss also started contacting her Perth distributors to order what she termed a zombie apocalypse order. About 3 weeks ago, the station owners decided to implement some really strict lockdown policies and she wanted a kind of big wet season order in like we station cookies all know about. Unfortunately even at that stage we were told there was stuff all tin food available.

And then came the beer restrictions… Mount house had literally just started a social club this year and all of a sudden, it looked like they couldn’t get grog. (Not that I drink much). A neighbours came to our rescue and is letting us use their license to order. This past week there’s now a restriction on smokes. Would anyone like to explain to either a black fella or ringer that they can’t smoke anymore cause they’re not allowed to go to town or order a week-months supply? I remember the moment the outbreak became very real for the men in the camp; just before the 500 people gathering rule and they realised that rodeo was cancelled. It was a Friday smoko time. They were not impressed but still a bit blasé about it. They know it’s real now.
The new cook arrived and was put in quarantine. We made it a game of cooties. The manager has also ordered chicks and veggie seeds. They don’t want to be caught with no veggies. The station has a full time gardener so it shouldn’t be too difficult to grow some. I hope their garden goes well. Frankly I’m glad I don’t have to be a station cook in this part of the pandemic.

The departure

Then came at big press release on a Friday: they are closing the land divisions within Western Australia. I read the rules, Mrs Boss read it and we both said it was time I jumped. I got on to Qantas and changed flights to the Monday, 30th March, including Nola. Truthfully, I had been quite anxious about it for about 2 weeks. I wanted to earn good cash. I wanted to hand over to the permanent cook in person. And knew I was going home to even less jobs available than before. But when do you jump? I honestly wished there was someone I could call to ask advice! Dr Norman Swan? ABC Radio? My local member for parliament? I had know idea so I just bottled it. And raged at every restriction placed on station workers that city people need but cripples station workers lives unnecessarily. And quietly freaked out about my family in other parts of the country. I might be in the safest place on earth but there is more to my life than just me.

On Sunday, I was sent a message that my flight was cancelled, that I was booked on an evening flight and then they messaged to say Nola couldn’t go please call this number. So I did. Only operational Monday to Friday, 9am Sydney time. I’m a bit panicky now. On Monday at 6 WA time, I call and join the queue for sorting out Nola’s flight. She goes as freight. We agreed to an afternoon flight. 2 pm.

Then 4 hours later, it’s another cancelled flight. So I call again and I’m relieved to here that Nola can fit the last flight out. Ultimately I had three flight changes before even leaving the cattle station. I had reached the point where I was preparing to leave my companion animal behind. I even shed a tear at the thought and I’m not a crier.

We left in the morning at 6 am. My driver, was not allowed out of the car for anything. She has to refuel herself out of a pod on the ute. And can only use the bush to relieve herself. So there I was. From midday, Sitting under a tree with my dog in the airport carpark, waiting for a 7 pm flight out. I know there are 6 cases of covid19 in the Kimberley and I figure they’re probably all in Broome, so I’m not going anywhere. I’ve checked in. It’s the last flight before curfew is enforced but I was anxious even this last flight will be cancelled and ill be lumped with trying to sort the paperwork to get home.

Then I boarded. Feeling anxious but grateful. I had just read that a plane in South Australia got turned back to it’s departure airport due to baggage handlers testing positive. My air hostesses have added a hand washing reminder to the safety speech at take off. And an assurance that Qantas takes our safety seriously. Meanwhile the passengers queued pretty close together when boarding. (I didn’t). I decided that best practice for plane travel was to maintain as much physical distance as I can. I only touched my seatbelt buckle and concluded that I didn’t need water or a biscuit from staff. I sat until most people were off. I wore gloves to handle my bags when putting them on the ute. And I showered as soon as I got home. I was both filthy from a windy day outside and exhausted after such a long and emotional day.

I feel really great to be home. And it’s good to be with my husband. So I’m actually grateful to have worked as much as I managed. I will now quarantine at home for 14 days because that is best practice.

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