Dairy farmer Geoff Cochrane and his wife Cathie, a retired teacher, will go a long way to lighten the load for families in the outback.
The grandparents from Pyree have travelled as far as 3000km out of their way to offer their time and skills as volunteers with the Frontier Services program Outback Links that supports families who live in remote areas of Australia.
“We’ve done an Outback Links placement once a year for the past five years and we’ve loved every experience,” said Mr Cochrane.
Recently the couple spent 19 days on a cattle station in central Queensland to assist a young family with the workload of running a property, maintaining the home and caring for children.
Mr Cochrane provided some extra help on the farm, checked water levels across the property and worked in the garden.
Mrs Cochrane took on the role of home tutor for the family’s eldest child who is a student of the School of the Air, a schooling system for remote students where lessons are delivered via radio. She also cooked, cleaned and washed clothes. This allowed the mother to be outdoors working on the property.
“The mother was organising school, looking after the garden, mustering, fencing and running a household all at the same time. I don’t know how she did it,” said Mr Cochrane.
Incidentally, the Cochranes were on hand to assist when the father became sick with appendicitis. His wife drove him 120km to a remote town where he was picked up by the Royal Flying Doctor Service and taken to hospital. The Cochranes stayed back to take care of the property with the family’s grandfather, aged 88.
Mr Cochrane is now semi-retired but his family have been dairy farmers in Shoalhaven since 1970 and in Kangaroo Valley before that.
“There was always a part of me that wanted to be on a big cattle station. At this stage in my life I’m still very active so now I am experiencing life on these big remote stations. When I’m out in the Outback, I just love it.”
“When you go to visit a family with Outback Links, the families welcome you with open arms. You get to find out all the local knowledge, it is just so interesting.”
Mrs Cochrane said many of the people they visited with Outback Links had become like family. As volunteers they offered a helping hand, but they also brought friendship.
“Sometimes their nearest neighbour is 200km away. On our last visit, you could buy beer in the closest town but you couldn’t buy milk.”
The Cochranes travel in their four-wheel-drive with a camper trailer in tow. The isolation and big open spaces do not bother them.
“People often say to me ‘Aren’t you worried about breaking down?’,” said Mr Cochrane.
“I tell them that if I break down out there, the first person that comes along is going to help. If you break down in the middle of the city, I do not think the first person is going to stop and help.”
Outback Links places volunteers with families who need assistance for a short time. Volunteers come with all kinds of skills. All that is needed is a willingness to pitch in.
To find out more go to www.frontierservices.org/outbacklinks or phone 1300 731 349.