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  • Vickie Meade

My NT Adventure

I wanted an adventure. Life was quite comfortable and I thought an adventure outside my comfort zone would be a good idea. So, when a friend asked if I would give a reference for her to go and work in Darwin, I said yes. The reference time was set up but my friend decided to pull out. I asked the interview group if they could tell me more about the job and if perhaps, I could apply. I did and a time was set for me to come to the Northern Territory. Unfortunately, that time didn't work because there was a lack of available housing in May and June, a very popular time (very nice weather) in Darwin. Due to housing, I couldn't go and one of the people on the interview panel had the idea of asking me if I might be interested in Katherine instead of Darwin. I said I would think about it and get back to her. The adventure was born and I travelled north towards the end of August; staying for about 7 weeks (coming home for one quick week at the end of September).

And what adventure it was. The town of Katherine is a very nice little town of 2 main intersecting highways, Stuart Highway going north to South from Darwin all the way to Alice Springs. And? east to west. I had a delightful bus ride from Darwin to Katherine at one point in my adventure and really enjoyed the scenery; much different than I expected. I had anticipated a more desert environment and instead, at the beginning of October, the desert was starting to bloom with a bit of rain. Trees and scrub were beginning to turn Green and flower!

But my first view of Katherine was from a small, medical flight that went out regularly. My manager was able to get me on that flight to Katherine and be picked up by my team leader. I had a nice introduction to the town and promptly forgot where everything was. I was brought to the little clinic at number 5 Kintar Street and introduced to a very nice space that was not used much at that moment. The previous June, the team leader had retired and most of the previous staff had moved on to other adventures. My team leader had only been there for 7 weeks and an assistant was currently on break from the centre. There was just the two of us and I was the designated ‘team’.

As the ' team' (there were no OT or other physio on staff and one health speechie who came on some Wednesdays only) I was asked to review all the kids for this Katherine service, including those from birth through age 18 and the elderly who were still transitioning to the national disability service scheme (NDIS). I needed to determine which children were most appropriate for the Katherine service, either staying in Community Health or being transitioned to the NDIS. When I was first going to go to Katherine, I asked how many children were on the current list. I was told there was approximately 87 children so I thought ‘I can do that’ in two months’ time!

When I arrived, I found out there were approximately 150 on the waiting list and also 150 on the active list. Since most of these children had not been seen for several years due to the pandemic, we decided to combine the list and therefore I had about 300 children from 0 to 18 plus the elderly. First, I organised them by age and I started with all the infants aged 0 because I knew that if I could connect with parents, I could start a program that they would be able to do in their own environment, and I could move on to some of the older kids, while feeling comfortable that those kids were going to be taken care of or families would contact me if they needed more assistance. I started with infants, then age one, 2, age 3 then age 4 and connected with preschools and programs of readiness for kids to go to kindergarten. I was able to see approximately 100 children in my 7 weeks and basically visited several of the elementary school, in which I tried to give teachers information that they might need around kids they were concerned about. We referred to the NDIS for kids that looked like they needed more long-term assistance and would qualify. Overall, I ended up with about 10 children that I saw several times over my seven weeks and when I left, I referred the families, if willing, to private services around the town. it was quite the busy, busy time.

But beyond the work day...

I must admit there was definitely many days of work on my northern adventures, but there were so many days of playing very hard as well. I loved the ‘pop’ up cafes around town, which packed up during the wet season! I also like the pool complex and in general the small town feel. However, I think in order of great memories first, would be my friends from Port Macquarie, who while traveling on their own adventure, stopped by Katherine. Once I conquered driving my big four-wheel truck, I ventured out down the road to find the National Park on my own and enjoyed a lovely evening of wine catch up and going out to dinner. They even bright Prosecco for us to enjoy together!

The second great play adventure would have to be flying in a helicopter (a first!) over the gorge. (I thought the gorge was one gorge and then I was told there were 13 gorges. I found out it was one very long gorge broken into pieces by rocks in the middle so you would get to the end of one gorge and then stop and walk over the rocks, but I digress). The flying adventure in the helicopter was very adrenaline-pumping. I've never flown just straight up and we were warned to stay well away from the open doors as anything that got near the wind would grab, for example, our phones, and throw them into the tail and break the helicopter, so we would all die! A bit unnerving, but absolutely delightful to follow the gorge from beginning to end, and then set down on a hill and have champagne and nibblies and return to the helicopter garage.

The third play adventure was traversing the gorge by boat. This adventure consisted of driving out to the gorge (about half an hour away from the town of Katherine) and getting into position waiting, getting onto the boat with many other tourists, and then slowly going up the gorge until you got to the end of the first gorge; a pile of rocks! Our guides tied up the boat and you clamoured over the rocks to a long walking trail, past some wonderful paintings on a huge rock wall. We came to the second gorge, which has its own boat and you jump down to that boat and cruise to the end of the second gorge. You could actually swim in this gorge, if brave, because it was locked with the rocks at both ends and the saltwater crocodiles were less likely to get in. During the wet season, the water is so high all the gorges are one and connected to other bodies of water so the Saltwater crocs easily get into the gorges! No swimming then!!

Very easily a great adventure! I may even go back for more.

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