On the 7th of May the women of the Barkly Tableland came out of nooks and unexplored crannies of the Australian outback to gather at the Barkly Homestead Roadhouse for the much anticipated bi-annual Barkly Women’s Day. As usual they drove for hours and hours…. and sometimes hours, hours, hours, hours and hours to attend the day. We had women from Alice Springs, Boroloola, Tennant Creek, Charters Towers, Camooweal and of course all the cattle stations from near and far. These ladies don’t care about distance, 5 hours across bumpy dirt roads is nothing but catching up with friends, dressing up and sipping on wine is everything!
This year marks 20 years since Carmel Wagstaff started this wonderful day back in 1996. It was originally held at Brunette Downs Station (where Carmel lived/managed at the time) but it soon became too big so they moved it down to the Barkly Homestead Roadhouse. I attended my very first Barkly Women’s Day in May 2001 as a fresh faced naive Governess. I remember listening to Carmel speak and thinking, wow – she is pretty amazing, imaging organising a day like this. Of course what I didn’t know was that one day I would be the one standing up there on the microphone welcoming everyone and organising the day.
Carmel left the Barkly in 2002 and the new managers wife – Bernadette Burke – took over. Then, in 2010, she handed the microphone over to me. I had very big shoes to fill following on from Carmel and Bernadette – I admire both of these women more than they could ever imagine.
So Carmel…. if you are reading this…. my question to you: when are you coming back as one of our guest speakers? And Bern… we will always have a spot for you when you are ready to take on that microphone!
Our first event for 2016 did not disappoint, we had a fantastic day with 65 ladies in attendance. It is always so funny seeing tourists turn up to pay for their fuel and look into the bar area only to see it absolutely chocka block full of well dressed women sipping on bubbles. It must be a sight. I mean, you drive for hours out here and never even pass a house so the mind must boggle as to where we all come from.
We had two lovely guest speakers this year. Roddy Calvert from Tennant Creek was our first speaker and my goodness, wow – she was absolutely amazing. Poor Roddy was bullied into speaking by myself and her good friend Miss Helen. You see last year after the second Women’s Day we were sitting having breakfast with Roddy and she was telling us all about how she survived Cyclone Tracey. It was as if it was no big deal. Just chatting as if it were normal conversation. I was sitting, mouth open, gobsmacked. Roddy’s story is nothing short of amazing and she is just so humble and modest.
Roddy was 9 months pregnant at the time. She had left the station where she lived to go into Darwin and await the birth of her first born baby. Roddy was in a caravan at Mindle Beach Caravan park – smack on the coast. Right where you wouldn’t want to be if a cyclone was predicted. She was all alone, young and did I mention 9 MONTHS PREGNANT!!!!???!!!! During the night the Cyclone came and things got pretty scary. The little caravan was shaking, windows were breaking, it was dark. She knew she had to get out of the caravan but the wind was so strong that she couldn’t get the door open. Then the eye of the cyclone came (she didn’t realise that at the time) so she got out and into her Toyota and drove over near the amenities block where other people seemed to be gathering, this was sheltering them a little bit. And there she stayed, alone for hours on end in her car. It was shaking, branches were falling on it and stuff was flying around everywhere, I can’t even begin to imagine the terror. Some how she survived. The next morning she tried to drive out of Darwin but didn’t get very far, there was debris everywhere and roads were cut, she was turned around by police. Just trying to get fuel was a mission. She wasn’t going anywhere. In the end she was evacuated to Adelaide by plane but that is definitely cutting the story very short.
Roddy – you are truly amazing and I could have listened to you talk all day long. Thank you for sharing your emotional story with us. We could see that all these years later it was still like it was only yesterday that it all happened. You are an amazing lady.
We had a group of ladies who travelled all the way down from Boroloola to attend the day. About 7 of them came in a bus and drove for about 6 hours just to get there. Sharon, who drove the bus, also spoke to us about her life and travels. Another amazing lady who has done so much, her stories took us all over the world. You really could get any of these outback women up on that microphone and hear a fascinating story every time.
One of the ladies who travelled down from Boroloola was a hairdresser. Perfect. She set up on the day and did a few haircuts not to mention eyebrow waxes. Thanks so much for coming down Julie we hope to see you again!
We had a few market stalls on the day with Aileen and Anne travelling all the way over from Charters Towers – 12 hours!!!! That is dedication. Aileen had her gorgeous hand made clothing and jewellery – Aileen’s Inspirations – and Anne had her Jamberry collection.
Jane travelled up from Alice Springs (just a quick 7 hour drive) with her Modere range and also dished out hand massages like it was nobodies business.
I took my jewellery too…
After our wonderful guest speakers it was time to relax and enjoy each others company. The Barkly Homstead always puts on a delicious luncheon. We all settled in for the afternoon (and many of us for the night). It is always such a fun day. Thanks to the team from KICS Katherine (Katherine Isolated Children’s Services) for holding a playgroup for the kids so the Mum’s could enjoy some much needed time out.
It is often the only chance we get to catch up with each other. And although it doesn’t feel like it, it is usually the only time I see my friend Flick… here she is…
Flick has been attending these days for longer than me. A long time Barkly resident. Her trip home took over 6 hours and involved 3 hours of wet muddy road – yuck! But she wouldn’t miss it for the world.
And here are the girls from Chardy Central…. Miss Bobbie (our Governess), Rach (our Cook) and Me…
Unfortunately Georgie – our Headstockman – had to load and truck 10 road trains worth of cattle that morning so she couldn’t come with us…. I told her that’s what you get when you leave the comfort of the school room and decide to work in the stock camp. Aren’t I mean. We did miss her though.
A huge thank-you to our wonderful sponsors for supporting this important event…