TREE CHANGE: Kay Rushton moved with her family to work on remote NT cattle property Argadargada Station.
TREE CHANGE: Kay Rushton moved with her family to work on remote NT cattle property Argadargada Station.

Family moves from town to isolated NT station

IN A 12-by-9 trailer, the Rushton family from Biloela packed all their belongings to move to a remote station with its closest town about a six-hour drive away.

Argadargada Station, a vast cattle property owned by the Georgina Pastoral Company in the Barkly region, was set to become the family of four's new home after years of living in town.

Kay and her husband Paul were keen to get back into station life, having worked in the cattle industry before, but the 1500km shift would come as adjustment for their teenage daughters Darcy and Riley.

"Our girls were town raised. So it was a big shock for them,” Kay said.

After completing a full season on the property, and now living in Mt Isa for the time being, Kay reflected to the Rural Weekly on her family's mammoth year in the Territory.

Returning to the bush was a long journey for the Rushtons.

Although Kay and Paul have worked on isolated properties in the past, they were both raised in Brisbane.

"My mother has always told me I was born a century too late,” Kay said.

"Within six month of meeting Paul we went bush.”

Both with heavy backgrounds with horses, the couple found work on different properties throughout Queensland, and eventually settled for a position on McAllister Station, situated near Normanton in the gulf of Queensland.

"That's where we really felt at home. We loved it up there,” she said.

"Our honeymoon was being flooded in for four months. It was just me and Paul and the chopper pilot when he brought things in for us from time to time.”

With heavy hearts and after more than two years on McAllister, the couple chose to move to central Queensland to start a family and for Paul to take up a job with the Emerald Agricultural College.

After a few years there and the birth of their two children, Paul later found work in the mines, so eventually the family shifted to Biloela to be closer to site.

Although years passed since they had lived in the outback, when the opportunity came up to move back to the land last year, now with their daughters in Year 11 and Year 8, they jumped at the opportunity.

Eldest daughter Darcy, who has plans to later study engineering, opted to go to boarding school in Mt Isa, and youngest child Riley was set to start School of the Air.

The family were greeted to the property with a roaring wet season.

It wasn't long until they settled into life on the land.

"There were three ringers, a bore runner, then my husband and myself,” Kay said.

"All the mustering was done with choppers, bikes and horses. When there was big muster on, the main property (Lake Nash) would bring in more staff.

"The property was really beautiful. It went from sandy flats to beautiful ironstone ridges, it was just the most amazing place. You could drive for 10km on a bore run and the country would change totally.”

Their daughters soon had their own horses to ride.

"We tried to keep them busy, they could go and muck around with their horses,” she said.

"I think they found the restrictions on the wi-fi very hard compared to town.

"And we got them calling their friends at night, because there was no mobile phone reception, and texting seems to be the go.

"We were on generator-based power too, so if something happened to the generator you lost all power. That was hard for them to understand. It was just different.”

Riley found a novel way to keep in contact with one of her buddies.

"She started a journal with one of her friends from Biloela,” Kay said.

"So they would write and put pictures in it then mail it to the other, and then they would keep it for a month and then send it back. So it was like a pen-pal thing.

"It was just another way for them to keep in touch.”

Despite Riley doing her best with School of the Air, Kay noticed that her grades were starting to slip.

"She was used to having her peers in the classroom and her teacher right there,” she said.

"Although School of the Air was giving us so much support, I think it's really hard to do it if you haven't grown up with that type of learning.

"After semester one, we made the choice to send her to boarding school as well.”

Switching back to a more traditional type of classroom was the right move for her.

"She thrives in the environment of the classroom, she is back in the As and Bs and doing really well now.”

While Kay recalls their time in the Territory with good memories, the family faced many challenges that year.

Throughout 2016 both Kay and Paul on separate occasions needed to be hospitalised. Kay's illness was a near-fatal event.

"I have psoriatic arthritis and one of the medications I was on went toxic on me. It just built up to a level in my body where it was toxic,” she said.

Already on their way to town from Argadargada, Kay just arrived in Mt Isa before her sickness started to become scary.

"I barely got to town, we pulled up and dropped the kids at my sister's place then we drove straight to the hospital. I was in hospital for three weeks after that,” she said.

"I had a wonderful team of doctors there who wouldn't let up until they worked out what was wrong with me.”

After recovering, Kay returned to the station, but within a few days Paul fell ill and required a rushed transport with the Royal Flying Doctor Service to hospital.

When Paul was away, Kay had to step outside her cooking and all-rounder role to fill her husband's shoes.

"I would start at 3.30am, go over and start cooking, then while they were eating their breakfast I would rush back and get my washing done. Then I would race back and clean the kitchen and then by that time they were getting their horses in so I would go over and get on my horse and muster all day.

"Then come home and cook dinner.

"After that I would do all the paper work for the day, the tallies from the paddocks, then crawl into bed about 11pm ... then wake up and do it all again.

"It was taxing on the body. I was extremely exhausted but it was a good tired.”

The health scares took a toll on Darcy, so towards the end of August the family made the call to spend the next year in Mt Isa until she graduated from high school. Paul has returned to work in the mining industry and Kay has stepped back into her old role as a teacher's aide.

"We will stay here until she graduates. She only has one more year to go. If the right job comes along after that we will be happy to go bush again ... and we have a lot less stuff to move this time.”

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