When John and Shan Sharp pulled into the driveway at Lexington Station and asked how they could lend a hand, it could not have been better timing for Kassi Crocker.
The retired couple who are travelling across Australia spent three weeks at the property, 60km outside of Emerald, where Kassi and her husband Tim, with their three-year-old daughter Laura, run beef cattle and harvest crops.
The Sharps are volunteers with Outback Links, a program run by Frontier Services which matches up skilled volunteers with families in rural and remote Australia who need a helping hand.
John, a fitter and turner, and Shan, a mother of six, arrived with energy, good cheer and a willingness to help out in whatever way they could.
Looking back, Kassi says it was exactly what she needed at the time and the extra pair of hands lightened the load to help her keep going.
After many years working on other people’s properties, as a governess, a cook, a fencing contractor and in-home carer, Kassi married Tim and together they took over the reins at Lexington station.
Starting at the bottom rung, running their own station has been gruelling work, with the results slow to show. Both Kassi and Tim have needed to find work off the property to supplement their income. Tim does shift work at a mine, 70km from home. Meanwhile, Kassi has found work loading coal trains – her job involves the careful operation of million-dollar machinery. She is on call, 24 hours a day, and is usually given just a few hours’ notice to get to work when the train is ready to be loaded.
“I was juggling my work loading trains, with the care of Laura and the maintenance of the property. In the end, it all came to a head. I was ready to keel over, I was so worn out.”
That was when Kassi turned to Outback Links and about three weeks later, the Sharps arrived at Lexington station.
John and Shan helped out on the property, in the home and with all the small jobs that get pushed to the side. John finished putting up a mesh fence around the dam, built a cage for their three dogs and took on the general run of the property, checking water levels and fences. Shan was there to look after Laura whenever Kassi was called off to work and was a huge help with domestic chores.
“It meant that I wasn’t constantly running around. For those three weeks I could relax and get on top of things. I didn’t have to stress about everything else going on outside.”
For Kassi, the companionship of the volunteers was as invaluable as the practical help.
“It was good to have them around and to hear about their life experiences. Life doesn’t seem so bad when you hear other people’s stories. Because they were older, they have a lot of experience to offer. It’s nice to know they have been there, done that, and come through the other side.”
For John and Shan, volunteering with Outback Links has been an entirely rewarding experience.
“We get so much out of this. The appreciation for what we do is phenomenal and we’ve met so many wonderful people out here,” they said.
Find out more about Outback Links.