Volunteer work in the Outback

 These days there are quite a few avenues for voluntary and charity-related employment.  For example, retired teachers may like to consider doing some much-appreciated voluntary teaching, organised via the Volunteers for Isolated Student’s Education scheme (VISE).

On remote stations the mother is usually the one responsible for educating the children and the arrival of a VISE teacher may allow her to spend time on other neglected duties, work outside during extra busy times such as shearing or travel away to receive medical attention. Or maybe just to have the unheard of luxury of 5 minutes to herself. Information can also be obtained through the Isolated Children’s and Parents Association (ICPA).

Frontier Services provides short-term carers once or twice a year to families living in areas distant from conventional daycare facilities. This is a Uniting Church charity that receives some government assistance due to recognition of the fact that remote area residents have no access to standard government-subsidised childcare services. The carers are in full-time paid employment but the cost to the families is minimal. (While living out west I was fortunate enough to have a carer look after two of our children once while I was away.)

Pilots and plane owners may be interested in helping Angel Flight Australia. This is a charity that depends on volunteer pilots to transport rural and regional patients and/or carers to distant medical facilities. This is for essential but non-urgent medical treatment only, as distinct from the RFDS, which provides an emergency service and has medical staff and equipment on their planes. Angel flight also seeks help with other tasks, such as driving people to and from airports.

There are increasing numbers of cattle station jobs offered to WOOFERs (Willing Workers On Organic Farms), although obviously care must be taken to ensure the position being considered isn’t just free slave labour dressed up as an ‘authentic outback experience’.   An objective read of the ad should give you a good feel for whether the prospective employer has put any thought at all into what’s in it for everyone involved, not just themselves.

In the bush just as in the city, there are some real lemons in the voluntary field but sometimes voluntary work can lead on to a really good paid job, and it may be the best way for an older employee to get a start in a new career.

The books ‘A Million Acre Masterpiece’ and ‘Life as an Australian Horseman’ contain hundreds of photographs of the work undertaken on cattle stations between Queensland’s Cape York Peninsula, Gulf and Channel Country, through the Northern Territory into Western Australia’s East and West Kimberley Regions. The photographs and captions give those unfamiliar with the life a very good understanding of how the days are spent, and what these outback landscapes look like.

For an inside undertanding of  life on cattle stations spread from one side of northern Australia to the other, order your personally signed copies of these unique books now.