Amy learns fast at the Frontier
AMY Shoebridge arrived in Emerald and had never seen a snake, she had no idea what a swag was and she would have looked at you blankly if you started talking about the State of Origin.
The New Zealander has been on a steep learning curve since she moved to Australia this year and joined the Frontier Services Remote Area Families Service, a network of mobile early childhood educators who visit remote communities and properties.
As a field co-ordinator with the RAFS team based in Emerald, Ms Shoebridge travels to families across eastern central Queensland providing mobile playgroups, kit boxes with early childhood resources and activity ideas, advice and general support for isolated mums and dads.
Ms Shoebridge, a qualified primary school teacher, said she was learning quickly about life in outback Australia.
“I come from Hawke’s Bay on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand,” she said.
“We lived five minutes from the beach, so it’s quite a different context.
“I have family that live on a sheep farm so I’ve had farm holidays beforeS but it’s quite different being on a working cattle station with massive cattle and mustering by helicopter.
“Everything is much bigger out here.”
Not only is everything on a bigger scale but the wildlife has also been a talking point for the New Zealander.
“I’ve now seen a dingo and my first snake. I was pretty excited about that,” Ms Shoebridge said.
“Before I came here, I had never driven a four-wheel drive. I didn’t know what a doona or texta was.
“There were lots of things that I had to get my head around.”
While getting used to a new culture and environment, Ms Shoebridge has also gained an appreciation for the challenges of living in isolated areas.
“I have never lived anywhere that is so remote,” she said. “To not be able to go to the supermarket because the roads are flooded or to have your children not be able to access school for months on end, those things would have never occurred to me before.”
Ms Shoebridge said she loved working with children and providing a service for families in remote areas who otherwise would not have access to early childhood advice and support.
“The children we visit have really diverse needs, so we have to figure out the best way to accommodate them,” she said.
“We provide educational activities for the children. Sometimes we assist parents in the schoolroom. Often, it is just being there as someone else who’s interested in their world.
“The families are amazing, really hospitable and really welcoming. I haven’t heard any Kiwi jokes yet, but I’m waiting for it.”
Five Frontier Services RAFS teams, operating from Longreach, Charleville, Mareeba, Mt Isa and Emerald, travel a combined 160,000km every year across remote Queensland.
“What we do can change every day and every week depending on what roads are open or what creeks are up,” she said.
“It’s pretty exciting really.”
Ms Shoebridge is no stranger to new experiences.
At 21, she travelled solo to South
Korea to teach at a school only to find nobody there spoke English.
She has been a kindergarten teacher in Taiwan and taught at primary schools in London.
For now, she is happy to stay in Emerald where every day is a new adventure.