I’d have to say, my partner Sue, one of the reasons we moved to the Northern Rivers other than having been here, it was one of the places we had travelled to previously that I liked and when I was doing my training she was doing her teacher training in Sydney and she used to travel into Sydney for final years from where we lived. She actually got a posting at Kyogle which was subsequently changed to Casino before moving up, and the place we rented on the other side of Lismore. When we moved to Federal she would travel from Federal to Casino until she got a transfer in 1982 to Mullumbimby High School where she taught for 28 years until a couple of years ago. So there was income coming in from that as well.
So gradually in 1980, I also had been looking for at least some part-time work around the district and actually, now that I think back I had forgotten that I had worked as a landscaping labourer also in 1979. Throughout the year we did the landscaping for Lismore Square with actually a friend who was also a new settler and managed to get that contract. And then we did the Tuncester Brewery, landscaped that in 1979.
In 1980 I had been for an interview with TAFE for part-time work and didn’t get any initially, but one of the teachers that was employed with a group of youth-at-risk, basically ran away and was never seen again. They called me up and offered it to me, which I didn’t end up having any trouble with the youth-at-risk – I had been one myself. I’ve still got friends, in fact I’ve taught some of their children unfortunately in similar groups. I still have friends from that initial group. But that was a good thing for me at the time. It actually was an area where I felt that I had something to offer in terms of training in farming, even though these people weren’t farmers, put a hoe in their hand and make them work all day if you can, is I think, the idea of the whole job.
It ended up being a really positive experience for everyone concerned and then they offered me more and they said “you seem to work well with these people do you want to go and work with aboriginal communities around?” An aboriginal community that was out at Woodenbong where I worked in 1982 and 1983 two days a week, I would travel out to Woodenbong and stay overnight on their community.
Through the TAFE, as well as still milking and still growing the vegetables and still building the house and Sue was teaching.
So that area, the land, those paddocks, so we’re growing small crops, we’re fencing, initially we were fencing the goats in then the same fences fenced the goats out. So these are our operations. In 1983 I actually had a malignant melanoma which was relatively advanced and in November went in and had excision which was a fairly traumatic job, there’s plenty to cut out but actually did the job, got it out. I found just at that time that there was a position available with TAFE fulltime and I thought that, in the scheme of life, I probably should be doing something more secure for the family. We had a second child by that time. I went through the interview process and got the position. I was employed because I had qualifications in agriculture and production horticulture they said “well you can do anything we tell you to do”. That’s fine. So I had a sort of split program between the two areas. So that sort of area developed also in the area there was new opportunities for women and groups that became available as the Lismore campus grew – I was based at Wollongbar which was the corn paddock for the Department of Agriculture which they’d let slip through their fingers. It was going to be actually the site of the uni but they wouldn’t allow it there because there was no sewerage connected and it was a bit remote and a couple of other things went awry and our head office in TAFE found that there was basically land up for grabs and grabbed it. So I was the first teacher teaching out of disused dairy bails at Wollongbar which, you can see, I was probably fairly comfortable with! And then Wollongbar came to me.
I was working in some of the alternative areas that TAFE became involved with, with the outreach concept and also new opportunities for women in the further education area of TAFE training as well as at the grass roots of it which was the dairy traineeships and then with a change in the type of agriculture in this region.