In between planting and harvesting their cotton and cereal crops, Rose and Denis Wooldridge visit outback families as bush chaplains.

Story By Janette Jenyns

A white Toyota wagon pulling a caravan bumps its way along a rutted dirt track. Trailing its progress, red dust spirals into the hot airless afternoon then settles on the leaves of grey-green mulga. It’s not an unusual sight in this part of western Queensland, but these visitors are not here to enjoy the splendor of the starry nights, nor the quiet of a secluded waterhole in a shaded riverbed. Denis and Rose Wooldridge – chaplains to the bush – are here to visit families living in the remote parts of western Queensland. There is nothing quite so welcome as a friendly face at the door, someone willing to spend a few days on the property taking the edge off the loneliness that threatens. Denis and Rose are willing to do whatever is needed, from pitching in with household chores to working side by side on a fence line for days on end.
Despite running their own busy farming enterprise, Denis and Rose spend weeks at a time helping families in an area west of Charleville, Qld, that they’ve come to call their own. They attend local events where they’re greeted like old friends. Last month they dipped brushes into pale blue paint and helped transform a dreary room, and stood with elasticators and ear pliers at the ready, helping out with lamb marking. It’s these acts of kindness that help create bonds of trust and friendship. Under the banner of Care Outreach, and with funding from their local church in Toowoomba, Rose and Denis are there to support, listen and offer practical help. “It’s about supporting people in our own backyard,” Rose says. “We don’t just drop in for a cup of tea and a chat. We stay long enough to develop relationships with people and we keep coming back.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #81

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2012