Riverland Ramblings

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Renmark was a busy town on the weekend that we were there, with the Renmark Rocks On festival & State Wakeboard Championships bringing in visitors from across the state and the border. We were grateful that the Riverbend Caravan Park had welcomed us for three nights. Our cause is near to their hearts, as their son is struggling with the loss of his best friend to suicide. We had people come and chat with us about our trip, and share various stories. One lady has an incurable illness which triggered depression. She found that helping look after her grandchildren eased the days when the dark cloud was harder to shift. Another older gentleman commented on our “No Room for Racism” sticker, which an Elder at Yulara gave us last year. He loved it, and went to tell us that his father was the Headmaster at a school in western NSW, at Euabalong. Of the small school population back in the day, many were indigenous, and this man’s father actually met with the local Elders, to ask them to teach him their language. According to this gentleman, “the Elders were amazed that an important white man wanted to learn from them”. They agreed, and the Headmaster went on to incorporate indigenous language lessons into the school’s practice, and even spoke it at home with his family. The gentleman then apologised for taking up our time and shuffled off, but of course we would have loved him to stay and share more of his childhood so closely integrated with the traditional owners of the land they lived on.

Our banners were displayed proudly both at camp, and at a picnic shelter overlooking the Murray. With all the houseboat and other boat traffic over the weekend, we’re sure a lot of people got to see them. The safe swimming lagoon was beautiful on a hot day. There is something magical about the Murray River.

Moving on to Mildura, we actually had a few offers of accommodation, but stayed at the Big 4 Mildura Getaway. Adele absolutely has her finger on the pulse of Mildura, and have us several great tips on local sights and tours. When the topic of conversation turned to the high rate of suicide in Mildura, she solemnly acknowledged that what we have heard is true. According to Adele, she was lucky – her kids survived. Even while we were in Mildura, Adele let us know that she had guests staying who had arrived for the funeral of a man who had taken his own life.

I guess as outsiders, it’s hard to see why the statistic is so high. Mildura is a large city, with tertiary education and employment opportunities, yet when we’ve tried to find reports about these statistics (28 deaths by suicide in the last three years to 2016) we’ve seen many reports blaming the figures on the insidious drug – Ice. It obviously can’t be the sole reason, and in 2016 Mildura was one of six Victorian locations targeted for specialised prevention support as part of the State Government’s Suicide Prevention Framework 2016 – 2025. The community is fighting hard and we love that!

We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Mildura, though we disappointed that we couldn’t leave the children at the old gaol at Wentworth when we visited! Adele provided us with an ensuite site, which was a wonderful surprise! We made good use of the pizza oven in the bbq area behind us (you might have seen Kirstine’s attempt at Facebook Live while there). The full camp kitchen was a great base for Paul to supervise a roast pork, while Kirstine watched the kids throw themselves down the waterslide into the gorgeous pool, though they were torn between swimming and playing in the Play Room. There is so much to see in Mildura, and we hope to go back on a holiday as a family and explore more.

The Discovery Park at Moama provided us with a quiet powered site, which turned out to be a blessing, as Paul’s mental health plummeted on the way there, and he had a rough couple of days, and Kirstine had sleepless nights as a result. The kids spent hours playing at the spectacular water park and pool areas, Kirstine ensuring Paul had some peace and quiet with Luna to find his energy to push back against the cloud which suddenly fell on him. Some days the pressure of travel, combined with nightmares and lack of sleep, is too much, and it catches up with him. On days of lowered resilience or fatigue, it only takes a piece of bad news or sudden change of plans to shatter the barrier he keeps his “broken mind” in check with. If you’re wondering why I use that terminology, see the article I shared on Facebook from the SBS page, then it will all make sense, as much as the complex world of mental illness CAN.

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