Charleville became a two night stay at a caravan park, instead of a one night “get everyone showered, the washing done, and all batteries charged” type of stopover. We were really pleased to find a caravan park with a drive thru site for us. One of the owners showed us the sites available and told us to take our pick, which is always a pleasant surprise compared to the places that give you a highlighted map with your site number on it and leave you to it. The male owner knew of the Black Dog and was interested in the trip as he showed us the sites we could choose from. His partner didn’t seem to know what we were talking about when we spoke about “the Black Dog”, and was more focussed on taking payment for our stay. To be honest, we’re used to both types of reactions. We find it varies according to the size of the town. The bigger the town, the less they care and the more they are fiscally focussed. The small towns stop and have a chat before getting to the nitty gritty financials. In small towns we feel our good will being reciprocated in discussion.
We had all these plans to get things done when we got to Charleville (and we had a laugh that our nearby neighbours were a couple we’ve also met at Bollon & Wyandra!), but the 30 degree heat really knocked us about in setting up camp. At that point we didn’t have shade, so the 30 mins it took to set up in full sun in the middle of the day left us all a bit dizzy. Suffice to say, whilst the kids were showered in the evening, we knew we’d end up staying another day just to recoup and finish our planned chores! It really is lovely though to have such warm weather to dry washing on a clothes line. We know that some rain would be preferred by the locals, though just not as much as last winter. Apparently it rained every other day and made life rather difficult.
The morning we left Charleville, we headed out to the airport to visit the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) visitor centre. The kids found this completely fascinating, as did we. To think that the sheer expanse of the Australian continent means that a doctor is sometimes needed to fly in to areas to attend to emergencies, is mind boggling. Our eldest daughter just loved seeing the story of a man who’s on our $20 note – Rev. John Flynn, who founded the first aerial medical service in Australia.
One of our followers, who also works for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), met us at the airport to say hello and tell us how very important she feels our message is. A very positive lady, who by her own admission, has a history of mental illness in the family, she was disappointed to hear that we hadn’t had much uptake on our offers to meet with media and community groups in Charleville. There seems to be a real element of denial about mental health in the area, and with an average of one suicide per month, she and her peers are working hard to try and improve access to services for their clients. We’ve heard from others that the community is like others we’ve known, and if you weren’t born there, you are never a local. This mentality is so damaging. We’ve seen the effect it has when people try to bring new information and services to a community in need, only to be shut out because they “aren’t local”. This follower of ours told us that Charleville is dying as a result. The empty shops along the main street are testament to this. It’s no wonder that there are so many people in pain in the town. How proud are these “local” families going to be, when they have no town to be a “local” in?
Rather than head north, we went east to Morven, having heard about a campsite at the recreation ground, where you could get a powered site for $10 per night if you got there early enough. Hmm..well, I guess “early” means two days ago at dawn! Lol! We weren’t bothered, and instead found ourselves a fabulous unpowered site in full shade away from the crush of caravans that had jammed in to access the handful of powered sites. Space is always going to be more important for us than access to power. The kids played at the playground on site, our eldest daughter was invited to play tennis with the local club after dark, and the magpies and pied butcher birds were very friendly and entertaining.
The next morning the kids woke us up just after 7.30am, which is a huge no-no usually. Cooper had something green on his head and it was sore. Kirstine stumbled out of bed ready to read the riot act, but pulled up short when she saw the bloated tick attached to his temple. Five minutes later, tweezers from the first aid kit and dad’s glasses perched on his face as he woke himself up, the tick gave up the prime juicy real estate of Cooper’s head. The girls were grossed out, but also intrigued, as we’d never had to deal with ticks up until now. We showed them before and after feeding photos, and they were happy. We aren’t in a paralysis tick area, but no-one wants to get fed upon by one of these little sods, so everyone had a once over and a lesson on how to avoid bites as much as possible. That night Kirstine got the kids out of bed again to see the two echidnas trying to hide by the reserve’s fence line behind our camp. The kids reached their fingers through the fence to touch the spines, and desperately wanted to see the sweet little faces of the echidnas, however these little guys (or guy and gal) were also trying desperately to be invisible, so we said good night and let them be.
Before we left, we met a lady whose son was in the Police force and struggled mentally with the job so much that he had to leave. It took him a long time to find his place in the world after that, but he’s coping better now with the support of his family. They say that Life wasn’t meant to be easy, and it couldn’t be more true in these cases. We felt really happy to hear that the right life changes and support network made the difference in this man’s life. It give us hope that eventually Paul will also find a new niche in life, and the peace that that may bring.