The 'Outback' (otherwise known as the sparsely populated areas of Australia) comprises approximately 70% of the continent. Parcels of land in these areas can vary from small properties to anywhere between 1000-8000 square kilometers. Growing up in the Australian Outback is a unique experience - both from the perspective of the children and the parents. Their way of life is completely different in a lot of ways than from people who live in town. For example, having to stockpile groceries because parents only get to town every three months or having to do schooling via distance education.
Providing meaningful experiences for children is also a lot harder when mom is an Outback resident. There are no YMCAs to take the kids to or swimming pools down the block. Any friends that the kids will have will most likely be made at a great expense to parents (in both time spent getting to play dates and in money spent on gas). With all this though, the people that come from the Australian Outback are thought to be some of the most hearty, tough people in the world. They're generous, good neighbours and live life in a very interesting and unique way. So unique in fact, that we decided to go ahead and make a list that highlights different aspects of how these people make their way through the world. We hope readers enjoy this look into Australian Outback life and enjoy the read!
15 If You Like To 'People Watch', The Outback May Not Be For You
Chances are, if you grew up in a city or even a small town, that if you wanted to go out for coffee with a friend or even just go and 'people watch' that it would be relatively easy to do. You just got ready, jumped in the car and had your parents drive you to the nearest shopping center. Not so in the Australian Outback.
Imagine that out of the 24 Million people living in Australia, only 5% live in the Outback. That amounts to around 3 people per square kilometer, versus 35 people in the USA. Part of this has to do with the fact that much of the Outback doesn't have paved roads, making it harder to get around. Most families who live in the Outback have personal planes that they use to get around. Living this way would be quite thrilling for the kids, but probably agonizing for a lot of teenagers.
The Australian Government encourages citizens to move to the Outback to help work the land, which keeps it healthy. The families and children who come from the Outback are both hearty and resourceful people who are tough and see the value of living off the land that they call home.
14 You Can't Just 'Pop Out' For Something When You Need It
In this type of landscape, there just aren't towns and stores everywhere. So grocery runs will involve a heck of a lot of drive time (hopefully less so if you're flying).
According to MissChardy.com, whose family lives 5 hours from the nearest town, planning is essential. Not only does her family have their own separate freezer house/cold room for meat, frozen food and bread, they also have a dry goods storage hut for stocking toilet paper, canned foods and other essentials. Shopping for them is done in bulk and is delivered by truck every three months or so, or for fresh items (such as eggs, fruit and veg) weekly via the mail plane that stops by.
The downside to bulk shopping in this way would be if you accidentally forget something. Imagine what you would do if, for example, your baby was running a fever in the middle of the night and you ran out of baby Tyleno? Thankfully, just like in most rural areas in the world, people's neighbours are always willing to lend a helping hand when you need it.
13 Going To School
Depending on where you live in the Outback, you may find yourself attending school in one of two ways. Either being bused every day (sometimes 60 kms or more one way), or by distance education.
If you are one of the lucky kids who gets bused to school, you will probably only have one or two classrooms in the entire school and they will be multi-age classrooms. Although having multiple ages in the same room might be somewhat unusual, the graduation rates are very high in these small schools due to the increased amount of support and communication possible. Not all areas of the Outback are able to provide schooling up to grade 12 however. Some schools only go up to grade 6.
The majority of kids in the remote areas of the Outback participate in the School Of The Air, according to misschardy.com. The school materials are delivered to the kids via mail. During the school day the teachers are set up in a radio station booth and the kids dial into a conference call with them to discuss their work and hear their lesson for the day. The kids also log into an internet site to follow along with lessons if they can.
12 Stranger Danger Is For Snakes, Spiders And Other Creatures
Because population density is so low in the Outback, your kids are more likely to run into a dangerous animal or critter than a human being. Take into account that Australia has some of the most dangerous animals in the world and you'll see why this is true.
According to australiangeographic.com, some of the dangers might be less obvious than we think. For example, the animal that is considered the most deadly in Australia is the Box Jellyfish (it has incredibly poisonous venom). This is one of the creatures you'd be most likely to run into according to the Australian Museum in Sydney. Would you believe the second most deadly creature is actually considered to be the European Honey Bee though? Apparently the venom in their bites isn't that poisonous, but 1 to 2 percent of the population have allergic reactions to it and die. Take this and combine it with the likelihood of actually getting a bee sting and you'll see why this creature gets the number 2 spot on the list. I'd say growing up in the Outback could be a pretty terrifying. You would have to have quite the anti venom kit stashed away to make a parent feel better about letting their kids play outdoors.
11 For Those Times When You Really Do Need A Doctor...
We've already established the fact that most families in the Outback live hundreds of kilometers away from neighbours or any other type of social setting, so what would you do in a medical emergency? The answer: The Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS), who boasts being able to provide care in 90 minutes or less! Considering someone may have a heart attack, a snake bite or something else equally terrible, it's incredibly important to have a service such as this at your disposal and just a radio or satellite phone call away. It's quite impressive really.
The RFDS provides many other services to its patients though. Along with providing antenatal checkups to new moms, they also offer services that range from providing immunizations to mental health counselling. Having the immunization appointment come to you (rather than the other way around for us) would be so convenient for parents - especially considering the fact that most appointments are over in 30 minutes or so. Imagine having to drive for 5 hours just for a 30 minute doctors appointment?
10 You Can Forget About WiFi
How many people do we know who check their phone first thing in the morning? Pretty much everyone, right? Not to mention our kids constantly being on their smart phones. This may be a little unrealistic if you're living in the Outback.
Now, I'm not saying there isn't WiFi available in the Outback but it's definitely not as readily available as it is in North America. According to outbackqueensland.com, most towns have mobile coverage that extends approximately 20 kms outside of town. But for families living on stations (i.e. farms) outside of town then communicating is harder because of a lack of communications networks and cell phone towers.
Luckily, there are still options. People that live in the Outback use both satellite phones and CB radio. So instead of texting their friends, your kids may very well be chatting away with each other over the CB radio!
9 Starting A Family Can Be Different In Some Ways Too
According to essentialbaby.com, 2.5% of all 2016 births in Australia were to families in very remote areas of the Australian Outback. Families in these areas can be hundreds of kilometers away from even their closest neighbour, let alone a medical center.
Australia has groups of midwives who stay in touch, and even travel to be with expectant mothers. The midwives are able to travel to the ladies via plane and/or Air Ambulance service. Sometimes the midwives simply phone and check up on pregnant moms and new babies.
Some people are still more comfortable with receiving their care in clinics in the towns closest to their homes versus through midwifery services. For one couple, according to essentialbaby.com, that meant travelling 800 kms round-trip just to attend antenatal classes prior to their baby's birth.
The majority of mothers approaching their due dates are encouraged to leave their homes at least two weeks in advance and go to birthing centers located in the towns and cities nearest to them. This helps to ensure though that the mothers have access to all of the necessary medical care that they need once baby arrives. Most women call their partners in at the last minute. Hopefully they make it to the birth on time!
8 Finding A Babysitter And Early Childhood Education
All parents have a lot to balance and sometimes need help. Outback parents have a unique way of getting that help. There is a program in the Outback called the Remote Family Care Service (RFCS) for parents in the remote Outback who need help with childcare or their child's early learning needs. For a family on a remote station, everyone but the baby is expected to help out. The family would simply call the RFCS agency and a caregiver would come out and stay with them until the work is complete.
On average, the caregivers stay with the family for about 3 weeks and bring toys and activities for the children to help them meet their early learning milestones. It's great because it gives the parents a time out, but also helps the kids to grow and learn. According to Janette Birch, a caregiver with the RFCS, the job has many rewards such as seeing the kids' eyes light up when they learn something new. The carers truly become a part of the communities they work in and while they are there to look after the kids, the families they work with truly learn to care for them in return.
7 Easing The Social Isolation
The Royal Family Care Service (RFCS) isn't the only program available for people looking for help with easing the social isolation everyone in the Outback feels from time to time. There are other programs such as the Pooncarie Children's Outreach Program in New South Wales that provide a monthly 'meetup' for children coming from isolated families. It's a welcome relief not only for the children, but for the parents too - even if they do sometimes have to travel 200 kms or more (round trip) just to attend.
According to Amy Pollard, a parent who attends these monthly sessions, the program helps her kids exercise their social skills (which don't get much of a workout at home). How would a child learn to wait in line or raise their hand to ask a question, for example, if they never attend school in a classroom setting? It's the little things like that, not to mention the much needed socialization the parents get too, that make this program so necessary.
6 Neighbours Are Everything
People in the Outback are supportive of their neighbours. When you live hundreds of kilometers away from the nearest town, school or any type of civilization you have to be. Who will you turn to if you run out of flour right in the middle of making a cake? Probably your next door neighbour. You'll also call on them for help with calving season, when there's an emergency or even just for fun when you're having a barbecue and want some company.
Chances are, your neighbour's kids will be your children's first friends (other than being friends with each other that is), and given the fact that there aren't hundreds of people around to chat with, are really a necessity for them. They'll learn how to be social with these kids and will have them to play games with and all of the other important things children do together.
As far as give and take between neighbours goes though, there is always one small requirement. When you ask for help from someone, they'll agree to help as long as you bring the beer.
5 Fun In The Outback
For Australian kids in the Outback a lot of fun activities involve the outdoors. Swimming, camping, fishing, going to the beach and other activities are just a few things you can do on a nice day. According to qt.com, Zara Agar and her sisters loved to go to the motorbike track that was 1 km away from their house and ride the jumps. They were always careful of course, but loved being able to do something on their own - away from the watchful eyes of their parents.
For those kids who truly love the outdoors (and for those close enough to town), there's always Scouts and Girl Guides groups to join. The kids learn about important life and survival skills, all the dangerous creatures that inhabit the area as well as poisonous plants and how to live successfully alongside them.
Cricket is a very popular sport in Australia, and so is track and field. According to australian-children.com, there's even a club called 'Little Athletics' that kids from age 5 - 15 can join to learn anything from long-distance running to different throwing events such as discus and shot put.
4 Yes, Even In The Outback They Have Play Groups
If you're lucky enough to live close to town, you may just be able to find yourself a play group to attend with your kids. The play group gives the kids a chance to improve their social skills, but also helps them to learn about other cultures and to grow up knowing that you can be friends with anyone - regardless of their background. Australia is a multicultural society and has immigrants living there from many countries such as Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and India. This is important for them because they will likely be encountering those cultures their entire lives. Gaining an understanding from an early age not only creates unique friendships, it also helps to eradicate problems with racism and discrimination. According to abc.net.au/news, the center welcomes people from both indigenous and non-indigenous cultures which especially important for creating tolerance among cultural groups.
The kids aren't the only ones who benefit, of course. The parents are also highly involved in the cultural activities being shared at the center which helps them learn about other cultures at the same time as their kids, while also developing a social network of their own.
3 Everyone Pitches In
It's pretty normal for kids growing up on family farms to have chores they're expected to do. When you live out in the middle of nowhere you expect everyone to pull their own weight - kids included. Children learn about things such as food production and how to feed and care for animals which at times can seem like play (who doesn't love feeding a baby calf, for example) but is really hard work. After all, chances are these kids will grow up one day to become farmers and ultimately, food producers for Australia and so the work itself is something to be taken very seriously.
Since the stations are so massive, a lot of families and producers have helicopters or planes that they use to check on crops, livestock and other things such as making sure fences are all in tact. They also take advantage of satellites available to check on water tanks and to make sure that there's no fires burning. Kids on the station may not have as big of a role when it comes to these things, but you can bet your booty that they'll be tagging along for those helicopter rides!
2 Balance Is The Goal For Aboriginal Children In The Outback
According to abc.net.au, some of the Outback schools in Queensland have started to incorporate traditional Aboriginal bush lessons into their curriculum in order to create more balance in the children's lives and strengthen their cultural identity. There are negative stereotypes surrounding the Aboriginal people in Australia and they have found that the cultural classes have helped their kids push through those negative ideas and do better in mainstream school settings.
The classes are offered every three weeks and are held on different areas of Aboriginal land close to the schools. Aboriginal elders teach the children different life lessons and survival techniques such as how to find food, how to cook, build shelters and all sorts of other useful things that help to show the children exactly how their ancestors lived off the land. It also shows the children that it is possible to live without the homes and technology that we have today.
The main point and benefit of these classes is to help empower the children and their families, to help them gain trust in the mainstream school system. And to help the kids connect to their roots so that they're better able to find their purpose in life.
1 The Stolen Generation And Life For Aboriginal Children
Life for Aboriginal children in the Outback hasn't always been pleasant due to social assimilationist practices. According to theguardian.com, in a report released in 1997, as many as 50,000 Aboriginal children are on record as having been taken away from their families and given to white families in the 20th century. Most of the time the families were not given a reason as to why their children were taken. Apparently, according to theguardian.com, this has still been happening with over 14,000 children being recorded as having been removed in this century (as of 2013).
Typically, when the kids are removed and placed in care it can take up to 6 months for their families to even find them due to poor communication. At the 6 month mark the child is technically eligible for adoption according to Australian law, so by the time the families find them the kids have oftentimes already been adopted out. It's a real tragedy and one that has terrible long-lasting effects on the kids and their families. Hopefully this is something that can be stopped because, as long as the child is safe and thriving, the best thing for them is growing up with their own family.
References: asianmail24.com, theaustralian.com.au, dailymail.co.uk, australiangeographic.com.au, outbackqueensland.com.au, quora.com, babyology.com.au, essentialbaby.com.au, earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au, en.wikipedia.org, sarrah.org.au, rebelonarainbow.com, katherinebrightaustralia.com, frontierservices.org, qt.com.au, ruralweekly.com.au, cis.org.au, theguardian.com, intrepidtravel.com