Bibil Station governess Jessica Dodwell with her students Wyatt and Madison Hall.
Bibil Station governess Jessica Dodwell with her students Wyatt and Madison Hall. Contributed

A skill in matching a govie to the right property

WITH her husband working away for much of the year, two properties to manage, a brahman stud and a robust horse business, it might surprise you who Jaye Hall thinks is instrumental to their family operation.

It's their governess, Jessica Dodwell.

"In the end, whatever happens on the place, school has to be a priority," Jaye said.

In the past few years the mother-of-two, along with her husband Ben, have battled through five years of drought. In 2016 their cattle were on agistment and their horses were living off hay.

While not complaining about the adverse conditions, Jaye explained drought just made things a lot harder, hence why a steady hand in the classroom was essential.

Over the years she has experienced her share of good govies, as well as a few bad ones, but feels they hit the jackpot with 20-year-old Jess.

"This is Jess's second year back here with us," she said.

"She knows the kids, she knows the classroom, and she is very conscientious of school and trying to better the kids. And she fits in with us."

This week Jess and Jaye took time away from their busy lives to chat to the Rural Weekly about matching the right govie to the right family.

Bibil Station is located about 200km outside of Longreach, so face-to-face interviews were not an option.

Although Jaye did not know Jess, by talking to friends of friends who knew her she was able decide if she would be suitable for her family.

And as for Jess, Bibil is about 2000km away from her home town in New South Wales, so she wanted to make sure she was finding the right new home as well.

"I only applied with Ben and Jaye, I knew of them through campdrafting" she said.

For Jaye, it was important to know their employees would be able to cope with the often tough station lifestyle.

"I feel there are people from the city who think they know what it's like out here, but in all regards they don't," she said.

"We only have a small crew and we don't have mobile phone service.

"And it's hot.

"We have had times early this year where it was up to nearly 50 degrees for long periods of time."

However, Jess has adjusted well and is enjoying living in the outback.

 

Jessica Dodwell with Wyatt and Madison Hall.
Jessica Dodwell with Wyatt and Madison Hall. Contributed

The thing she loves most about her job is that she gets to do a bit of everything.

When needed, and school is out for the day, she will help with the mustering and other station duties.

She is also very grateful to attend campdrafts with the Halls, and is even leant horses to compete.

"It's so good, I am very lucky. Not a lot of people get to say they ride the Halls' horse," she said.

"We are at campdrafts just about every weekend from March to October."

Before moving north, Jess had worked in childcare for 12 months, but she describes learning to teach children distance education as a whole new challenge.

"Sometimes they need a little motivation, but they are both very good at school," she said.

"Madison (in Year 6) is extremely good at history and English and Wyatt (in Year 4) likes maths and science," she said.

While the students are learning their fundamentals from Jess, she has also learnt from them.

"Wyatt loves his machinery so he has taught me how to drive all the machines on the place," she said.

"He showed me how to drive the bulldozer yesterday - teaching definitely goes both ways."

 

Bibil Station governess Jessica Dodwell loves travelling with the Hall family to compete at campdrafts in central Queensland. Wyatt and Madison Hall are her students.
Bibil Station governess Jessica Dodwell loves travelling with the Hall family to compete at campdrafts in central Queensland. Wyatt and Madison Hall are her students. Contributed

Jess and Jaye are now good friends and have formed a great working relationship.

Jaye said it was paramount to her that their govie was focused on school, but said she wanted someone who would join in with the family too.

"There are few girls who have come out here thinking it would be like McLeod's Daughters," she said.

"They nearly wear a path from the school room to their bedroom."

Isolation was not hard to cope with if you could make friends with the people around you, she said.

While it was a huge shift for Jess to leave her friends and family, she said by keeping herself busy and "giving everything a go" she was able to settle in.

Jaye stressed she did not expect govies to work outside of their teaching duties but said it was invaluable to her when she found someone who was happy to lend a hand.

"A lot of people nowadays need to be asked to do everything," she said.

"So when you see someone who can see something that needs doing and just does it, it's like a breath of fresh air.

"I don't expect help at the drafts on the weekends, that's their time, but Jess is always there to help set up and there to help pack up.

"That's just the sort of girl she is."

Jess had a simple answer for why she chose to come back for her second year with the Halls: "Because they are good to me."



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