A weekend of pampering and socialising regenerates the women of Queensland’s Channel Country.

Story by Therese Hall

Just like the legendary waters of the Georgina and Diamantina river systems, outback women flooded into Betoota, Qld, for the fifth annual Channel Country Ladies Day. One hundred and eighty of them travelled up to 12 hours to camp on the gibber plain beside Betoota racetrack for two nights, where they renewed old friendships with fellow station dwellers, dabbled in new activities, such as juggling and painting, and indulged in therapeutic treatments, including massages, facials and Bowen Therapy. “There are some hardworking women in western Queensland,” says Louise Cameron, of Glenferrie, Longreach. “It’s great to see them let their hair down.” 

The Channel Country Ladies Day began five years ago as a bit of ‘girls-only’ fun in the male-oriented world of pastoralism, with a weekend get-together on Durham Downs, Eromanga. Station governess Kristy McGregor came up with the idea while looking after Michelle Reay and Jonathan Cobb’s four sons on Durham. “She took pity on us Channel Country ladies,” Michelle laughs. Kristy adds: “At the few events on the social calendar out here the women were always preoccupied with looking after the kids, baking slices or volunteering.”

Overwhelmed by the positive response, Michelle and Kristy have headed up a committee to coordinate the logistics behind a remote event of this scale ever since, which includes entertainment, catering, guest speakers, tented accommodation, information services, activities, sponsors and stalls. “It’s a huge job,” Michelle says. 

This year, participants were entertained by Brisbane comedian Kat Davidson and three-man Gold Coast vocalists Gee’d Up, while guest speaker Bettina Arndt talked about what she knows best: sex. The trackside shed was transformed into a stylish venue with pink balloons, fairy lights and damask tablecloths for the evening highlights: a Gatsby-style glamour cocktail party on the first night and a floral-themed sit-down dinner on the second night. “So many people look forward to this,” says Lorraine Kath, of Mount Leonard, the station that hosted the event. “It’s so nice to do some of the things that you don’t normally get to do out here.” 

This story excerpt is from Issue #110

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2017