Instead of missing absent friends, Michelle Reay of Durham Downs, Qld, has found a way to see them all – and be pampered – once a year, while improving the lives of isolated women.

Story + Photos Therese Hall

Anyone who’d describe Michelle Reay as a ‘farmer’s wife’ clearly hasn’t met her. Yes, she’s married to long-time S. Kidman & Co manager Jon ‘Cobby’ Cobb, and yes, she’s made Queensland’s Channel Country her home since meeting Cobby 20 years ago. But Michelle is best known – and loved – throughout this rich pastoral district for her effervescent personality. “Even when she’s flat chat, Michelle will drive 200 kilometres down the road just to catch up with a neighbour,” says her former governess and good friend Kristy McGregor. “She makes the time to chat with the truckie and the mail-plane pilot. She makes the time to talk with people.”

“It’s been tough on Michelle being so far from her friends,” says Cobby, referring to their location for the past 11 years on Durham Downs, a two-hour drive from the closest town (Eromanga, population 80) in south-west Queensland. But, always one to ‘make things happen’, Michelle has flourished in her isolated situation. As well as bringing up their four sons and running the office on the 8900-square-kilometre cattle station, she’s at the heart of the Channel Country Ladies Day (CCLD), an annual weekend of entertainment, workshops, socialising, art and health checks that caters specifically for women, like herself, who miss out on female company and self-care practices because of their remote location. “Usually, when station people get together, it’s for a gymkhana or a race meeting,” Michelle says. “While everyone has a great time, the blokes tend to spend more time catching up, while the women rush around catering, selling tickets and looking after little kids. Women out here needed something that was fun for them.” 

The full version of this story was published in both OUTBACK magazine and the 2019 edition of our special one-shot magazine Great Australians

This story excerpt is from Issue #124

Outback Magazine: April/May 2019