Lending a hand in the outback
The Frontier Services volunteer program Outback Links is currently responding to calls for help from people impacted by flooding in Queensland. Our volunteers are doing an excellent job providing much needed support for families when they need it most.
We wanted to share this story about two volunteers Frans and Bev Hamer who found lending a hand outback gave them a wodnerful sense of achievement and an insight into the challenges of living and working on the land.
A decade ago Frans and Bev Hamer would never have pictured themselves herding cattle on a quad bike in the middle of the Queensland outback.
But then again, the former business broker and accountant have had countless new experiences since they retired and left their home in Cairns six years ago. They are travelling across Australia in their Ford F250 Ute, towing their 5th Wheel Caravan which they named “Stopalot”.
Last year, as part of their travel, Frans and Bev volunteered with Outback Links, a Frontier Services program which links people with the time and skills to families in isolated places who could use a helping hand.
“We are not the type of travellers who stop somewhere and sit in a chair,” said Bev. “We try and go to different places and see things that we normally wouldn’t see.”
Volunteering with a family gave them the opportunity to experience what it is like to live in the outback and gain an appreciation for the challenges created by the vast distances and the isolation.
Frans and Bev tied in their travel through the Queensland outback with volunteer placements for three different families living on large sheep and cattle stations in the west of the state – one as big as 100,000 hectares.
“When you set off from the homestead to go and check a bore and it is 20 or 30km away, you realise how big it is,” said Frans.
Bev added: “It’s also the fact that you are so far from anywhere. The next small shop or fuel stop could be 80 to 100km away on a dirt road. We’re not talking about places with lots of people on staff, we’re talking about a husband and wife and that’s all there is running the whole thing. It is eye opening to see how they manage.”
Each family they visited had different needs. One station owner was recovering from illness and needed help to get the basics done around the house and property. Another woman had to leave home to receive medical treatment, with the Hamers looking after the property in her absence. The third family had recently moved into an old farmhouse in urgent need of maintenance and care.
As office-based people throughout their careers, the Hamers found themselves in situations they would never have considered. Bev, who in her working life paid for a cleaner, was a great help around the home, cleaning huge pantry cupboards and tall windows. Frans worked in the garden and on the property. They sanded and repainted steps, drove around the station checking on water and feed and even helped muster cattle.
“It really gives you a sense of achievement. When you are doing a job like fencing, you start from scratch. You cut the timber, dig the holes and put the fence post in. To help someone do that and see the result is very rewarding,” said Frans. “You can see how it would take them many days to do it on their own. In a way you are able to shorten their working day.”
Bev said they left with a whole new appreciation for life on the land. “We were able to see where our food comes from and the people who produce that and how they cope with life.”
The Hamers had a great time, seeing outback life from an insider’s perspective. On the flipside, they were able to give back to the families they visited.
“It gives you satisfaction to know you are able to help someone, especially when they are in need,” Bev said.
“When you say that you cleaned windows and did the fencing - it doesn’t sound that exciting, but in that environment, and when you’re helping people who really need it, it’s quite an adventure.”
Frans added: “It makes you feel young again, to know you can still do things to help people.”
The Hamers have now headed south with Stopalot in tow and are continuing their travelling adventures.
Find out more about Outback Links