"But I stood up to him. I told him that if he hit me, I would never come home again. "

Jean, 76

I grew up in South Australia. I was the second eldest of four kids. Dad always used to put us down. He often didn’t have a kind word to say to us, and I used to be scared of him. When I was 14, Dad said that we didn’t need to be educated and that we should leave school to get a job. I really enjoyed school, but I applied for, and got a position looking after children on a remote cattle station. I looked after the children (they were five and two years old), and helped out around the house.  I went back to South Australia for a holiday after I’d been away for about a year. In front of a family friend, Dad started putting me down again. But I stood up to him.  After awhile he was so frustrated, that he raised his hand to hit me. But I told him that if he hit me, I would never come home again. From that time forward, I knew that I didn’t need to be scared of him ever again.  I stayed at the cattle station for about three years. I only left because of the drought - the owners had to downsize and unfortunately I had to go.

From there I got a Governess position in the Flinders Ranges. The children were seven and eight. They did their schooling via School of the Air, and I supervised and helped them with their lessons. Station kids don’t require a lot of entertaining, they have so much going on in their lives. I really enjoyed being part of it. I enjoyed living remotely as I was happy in my own company out there, and I was happy not having a lot of people around me.

I moved to Darwin when I was about 19, where I married the father of my children. We travelled down the track for his work.  He wasn’t at home much, so when the kids were in primary school I got them a couple of old nags to keep them entertained and mostly out of trouble.  They were responsible for riding them every afternoon and looking after them.  Being a parent is hard, especially when they challenge your authority constantly.  Whilst a couple of my children could be complete pains in the arse, I knew that there were many things that I could’ve handled better – it wasn’t all their fault.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  You have to give them room to grow, even when it’s so tough you want to tell them to not ever come back.  However I’ve learnt that you can’t close the door on them. Our role as parents is to push open the door gradually, and tell them that the door is open. When the time is right, and if they make it through, they’ll come back into the fold.

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Dione Brockwell