Victorian Teacher Volunteers

20 September 2011

Joan Allen is a grandmother with a kind heart and a keen sense of adventure.

The 64-year-old drove 1600km to Outback Queensland to lend a hand on an isolated cattle station this month.

“A lot of people do not understand why I do it…I just say I’m a free spirit,” said Mrs Allen, who lives in Boronia.

She spent one week at “Rollo” station, more than 600km inland from Brisbane to provide an extra set of hands for the Donoghue family. The nearest town was Bollon 80km away. The station itself was 56,000 acres. 

“I do it because I like helping people, it’s a way for me to see new countryside around Australia, I like mixing with people and it’s a sense of adventure.”

Mrs Allen, a retired teacher, completely revamped a cottage garden on the property using logs and rocks to make garden beds and gathering old pieces of machinery to decorate it.

When it got hot, Mrs Allen went inside and assisted the young son, a four-year-old, to learn to read.

The extra help she provided was greatly received by the Donoghue family who dedicate most of their time and energy into the livestock, educating the children and moving the family forward.

“To have someone like Joan work magic and transform part of our house yard, when I just don’t have time, has brought me such joy,” Alex Donoghue said.

Mrs Allen said her adventures in the Outback opened her eyes to life in the bush, including chasing mice, coming across snakes and dealing with head lice when three hours away from the nearest chemist.

“When you drive 1600km to get there, you’re not going to turn around and go away, you find a way through it. I just adjusted to life’s challenges; it makes you a stronger person.”