There wouldn’t be many bigger trips to and from school than that undertaken by Jack and Regina Lethbridge, of Warrawagine station in the Pilbara.
Story Ken Eastwood
When school broke up at the end of term 1, Jack, 12, and Regina Lethbridge, 14, started their long trip home. In a big country, there are plenty of rural kids with long trips to and from school, but few would be as long as theirs, from their boarding schools in Toowoomba, Qld, to their home on Warrawagine station, a 4,800sq km property between Marble Bar and Broome in the Pilbara, WA.
Starting at 5am at a relative’s place in Blackbutt, Qld, the children had to catch two flights to get to the other side of the continent, arriving in Port Hedland around 5.45pm, partly because one flight was delayed. A long drive back home followed, and they arrived home around 9pm.
“There was no sleep-in for them,” mum Belinda says. “The first day home we were loading cattle into trucks at 4.30am, so they were straight back into it.”
At the end of 2020, Belinda and her husband Lux (featured in our Tracks story, p118) decided to send both their children to boarding schools in Toowoomba because Lux’s sister and Belinda’s parents live nearby, so can support the children by attending school sport or having them over on weekends. Regina was starting year 7 at Fairholme College and Jack was entering year 5 at Toowoomba Grammar School, (TGS) where he was the only junior boarder.
“We just sort of decided that we would send both of them, because he would have been home by himself, and it’d be hard to get a governess for just one child,” Belinda says. “Much as he is really young, I think it’s all worked out well.” She and Lux get regular updates from staff on how the children are faring.
The two children travel together on the planes, and Belinda often takes them back to Toowoomba after the holidays to help them settle in and sort out school uniforms and other things. “I’ve been flying since I was a baby so I’m used to it,” Regina says. “I have lots of friends at school from places like Charleville and Quilpie, but they just drive to get home, whereas we have to take the two flights.”
Of the 200 boarders at Fairholme, there are no others from WA, but there is a day girl from WA who lives with relatives in Toowoomba. “I do get a bit of attention from the boarding staff,” Regina says. “They make you feel at home.”
Jack says he doesn’t mind the long commute and enjoys boarding at TGS. “It’s pretty good,” he says.
Belinda says it’s been a tough year on Warrawagine so far, with little rain meaning feed will be short for the cattle. “The cyclone in early March was probably the only rain we’ve had all year,” she says.
This story is from Issue #143
Outback Magazine: June/July 2022