Five years ago, my Dad, who at the time was working for the RAAF base just walking distance from our sleepy Blue Mountains home, was offered a transfer to the NT. Despite avid protests from at least two of three offspring (Guys it’s actually soooo dangerous up there no offense but you do not know the extent! There are street gangs! What if Mum develops severe side-effects from too much time between air-conditioning??? Miles will no way receive the level of education he needs! THINK OF THE CHILDREN…) they took the plunge. Before we knew it, the time came to wave them off (and as per usual book their flights) for an indefinite croc-infested sea change to the NT.
5 years later, and just as the concept of a return to NSW seems real, Dad is deservingly offered the position of CFO at NT Christian Schools; the organisation which Mum also contributes to so meaningfully as Middle School Coordinator (and occasional acting Principal) at Sattler Christian College in Bees Creek. On a side note, Bees Creek also make really good honey & dukkah – Mum if you’re reading this which I’m almost positive you are please get me more.
Despite all of the challenges the NT presents; the harsh seasonal climate, searing heat and humidity escapable only in short bursts e.g. ducking into a Woollies or opening & closing your fridge door in quick succession, the remote location, heightened cost of living, and the tedious validation required every time someone asks incredulously – “But… Darwin… Why DARWIN?” my parents have not only acclimatised to what is one of Australia’s best kept travel destination secrets, but also flourished in a community where they have offered support to others, established deep relationships with people from all walks of life, made time for humanitarian efforts where they have felt called to act, contributed a rare quality of work in each of their professions, strengthened their bond of marriage and lovingly approached this part of their journey together, frequently hosted and challenged me to enjoy and explore a part of Australia off the beaten track, and commendably immersed themselves in the NT way of life (think Parap fresh juice, Mindil sunsets, local theatre, art and music, and the occasional Cumberbatch Sherlock binge when I come to visit).
Before Dad was offered the job and we all thought the window to see the NT with free accommodation and mum’s cooking was rapidly closing, we finally got ourselves organised to visit Katherine & Kakadu together. Kakadu by way of circumstance would be just Dad and me; a meaningful adventure together which we will both always remember.
Perhaps it was something to do with the common interest in photography, a chance to slow the pace and “switch off”, the tangible indigenous heritage of the land we were exploring, or the sheer natural beauty of the sites we visited that made the trip so worthwhile. Whatever the case, the time shared with family allowing ourselves to surrender to the landscapes of the Northern Territory still untouched and teaming with life left me with a deeper and quieter respect for this land and it’s traditional and true owners, a chance to be present, and soak up nature at it’s rarest with my wonderful parents: my answer to “why Darwin”.