We were out at Mallawa 60kms from Moree. We had not seen the children for a month due to the floods. We opened up the shed and lifted the Christmas tree and the mice jumped off the tree and ran over my arm, over my foot and away.
How did we react? We laughed. After three years of drought and dust storms, a year of COVID, a locust plague, a mouse plague and a serious flood, we know that laughter is our best option.
My name is Wendy Baldwin. I am the teaching Director at the Gwydir Mobile Children’s Service. Travelling over 1500kms per week across Gamileroi country, the Gwydir Mobile uses two vehicles to visit nine venues and serve children isolated by distance, poor roads, dwindling enrollments and lack of services. I can say with pride that I have one of the best teams in the world and I would like to tell you about my team.
Working on a mobile is physically hard. Dust storms, mice plagues, flood-based mosquitoes and hard driving are exhausting. Other mobilers in other areas face snow, traffic, wombats, wild pigs and other challenges. Most of us at some point will carry water. Toilets are always a challenge. Yet most mobiles in NSW keep their core staff for more than ten years. The Gwydir Mobile has 10 staff. We average fifteen years and counting for working with us. I believe there are four reasons we have kept our staff: structure, relationships, personalities and laughter.
In 2001, I read books by Wallabies coach Rod McQueen and Australian Cricket Captain Steve Waugh. Both talked about structuring a team in a particular way. A senior leadership group. A team of senior players and rookies. We have run our team like that from then on.
In our leadership team we have three members. We make the final call on day to day management issues. Our senior players are our long-term staff. They are our strength. Each one of them brings a different perspective. Their life experiences as parents, farmers, contractors and members of the communities in which we operate, feed into the advice and perspectives they give the leadership group.
Our rookies are our new staff. We encourage them to ask why we do things. This allows us to notice entrenched behaviour. Being younger, their experiences and interests connect us with many of the parents. This structure means that everyone gets a say, everyone takes responsibility, and everyone buys in. When we buy in, we stay.