In and around Yetman on the New South Wales-Queensland border, the aged, disabled and ill turn to Charmaine Potter for help.

Story By Mandy McKeesick

It is a Sunday afternoon and Charmaine Potter is enjoying a weekend off, however, true to nature, she sees little separation between her work as a community-care coordinator and her love of the people with whom she lives. Seated on the balcony of the local hotel, she dines with friends and discusses her passion for sewing with members of the local craft group. And then, with the same openness and grace, she leans across the fence to check on one of her elderly clients, reminding her of appointments and providing that friendly face so crucial to those living on their own in remote areas.
In 1999 Charmaine went from being a hard-working volunteer to a hard-working but paid coordinator for Home and Community Care (HACC). The job stemmed from her work with the aged and disabled in Yetman on the New South Wales-Queensland border where for several years she had organised meals, transport and activities for disadvantaged residents. Today Charmaine’s title is northern community care case manager for Gwydir Shire, and the work, along with the job title, has expanded over the years. Now Charmaine individually manages 23 residents from Bingara in the south to Yetman in the north with her mission being to keep them safe and independent in their own homes. Her clients are the aged, the disabled and the ill, and to them Charmaine fulfils many roles: she is friend, confidant, counsellor, font of all knowledge and provider of refuge in life’s storms. As one of her clients, Maureen Sheather, says, “Everything I need has Charmaine’s name on it”.
Charmaine came to this line of work later in life and she says up until 1999, “I was just a farmer’s wife. I grew up on a starvation block outside of Roma and when I married we moved to Bedwell Downs on the Macintyre River in New South Wales that was all rock, hills and pine trees. I cried all the way there. Over 20 years we picked up every fence on that place, often with a kid on one hip and a crowbar and a roll of wire slung over my shoulder”. In those years she was also a wool classer, rouseabout, sewing teacher, obtained a certificate in business management and volunteered for the tennis club, the Country Women’s Association, the State Emergency Service and the Rural Fire Brigade.

This story excerpt is from Issue #84

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2012