I arrived in Brisbane from Longreach recently just in time to see the devastation of the floods. The spirit of mateship I saw here reminded me of times from my childhood and the willingness to help our neighbours – something that is still so important to us in the outback.
I was visiting a coach company near Archerfield (south-west Brisbane) as the water was rising. They needed to move about 300 buses to higher ground fast. So many people had turned out to help. Even mates from Red & White Coaches on the other side of the city sent drivers to join the effort.
That mateship is still there when a disaster strikes but, in the city, it sometimes needs a disaster to bring it out because so many people don’t know their neighbours over the fence now.
As a kid, my home station was ‘Alinya’, which is in flat country on either side of the Belyando River. Most of the year, our mailbox was on the western side of the river but, from December to March, the country was in frequent flood and our mailbox was on the Clermont town side to the east.
As kids it was our job to pick up the mail once a week. We’d ride down through the mud and row across the river (it wasn’t a deep waterway – only knee-high). Many times neighbours would be there and we all used to help each other out getting the mail and getting it to nearby stations.
It was an advantage for us kids too as our distance-learning school-work always came through the mail in large, yellow envelopes with a government crest. They’d send a huge wad of paperwork for the term. We’d work out what we could get through and the rest would go overboard. Poor Mum would send a telegram to the Board to find out why our work hadn’t arrived and we’d be kicking each other under the table!
Mum also sent scones down for the mail-man so when we got to the other side of the river, we’d boil the billy and sit down with him for a good old yarn and for news from town.
It was all part of the community spirit that helped us get by.
Another time Dad was helping out the neighbours, taking the wife and three girls across the river. Dad had been a seaman and took real pride in his rowing. He was stylish and strong, and sat upright in the boat.
We boys decided to tie the dinghy to the bank with a rope that day. When Dad set off all was going well until he reached the middle of the river and the boat wasn’t making any progress. He thought he’s snagged something as the boat was pushed way off the mark by the current – and then he saw us fellas on the bank holding the rope and laughing!
We always looked forward to the wet season adventures. Although we were mischievous, when you’re a kid in the bush, you’re always looking for what you can do to help other people.
The community spirit and sense of fun are things our guests on Outback Pioneers Starts at 60 holidays often comment on when they come to Longreach.
They start their visit at The Welcome Home – a building that has been at the heart of community life for well over a century. First it was the Welcome Home Hotel named for soldiers returning from the Boer War and was then rebuilt after a fire in the 1920s. It had the first billiard room in town and continued to be a place of meeting and mateship for many years under the famous landlady Mrs McNally.
These days it’s our booking office, dining area, café and the reception for The Staging Post accommodation.
If you come on our Outback Pioneers Starts at 60 holiday, take a moment to appreciate the community spirit that went into The Stables rooms.
When we had all the legalities of the sale sorted out in February 2021, we had just six weeks until the start of the season to transform the old motel into pioneer accommodation.
Local tradies, who were already booked up months ahead, realised what we were up against and got behind us. We had 25 tradies on site and the town was buzzing. The painter brought in five extra boys, the electrician and plumber called in reinforcements to get behind the concept. It took us by surprise and with family, friends and local support we were ready on time.
It’s part of the bush way of life that everyone knows everyone else and they are all part of an extended community. We know all about our neighbours because we need to know to support each other. We know which kid has a disability, who is unwell, who is having difficulties… People who want to keep to themselves don’t last long in the outback – they move on – because you really can’t manage all the challenges alone.
Whether we are in drought, flood or fire, we need our mates. It’s the sharing and caring that get us down the track.
This year, the wet season that has brought so much havoc to coastal areas has transformed our land from drought to greenery.
If you’ve visited before in the times of dust on the dry plains, come again to see the other face of the outback when the Mitchell grass grows, the animals flourish and the bird-life brings colour and a new soundscape to the bush.
We’re looking forward to meeting you, and welcoming you as part of our community in 2022.
Immerse yourself in the outback way of life and experience the real spirit of pioneering Australia on a 6-day holiday to Longreach and Winton. You’ll ride the Cobb & Co stagecoach, go on safari at the Kinnons’ Nogo Station, Cruise the Thomson River at sunset and much more.