Remote area no barrier to continued education

Remote area no barrier to continued education

Life & Style
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UNDERTAKING full-time study while raising two children under three years old and helping manage a farm business is not an easy task.

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STEP UP: Kirsty Williams, Mount Sarah Station, via Oodnadatta, is proof that distance is no impediment to following through on study goals.

STEP UP: Kirsty Williams, Mount Sarah Station, via Oodnadatta, is proof that distance is no impediment to following through on study goals.

UNDERTAKING full-time study while raising two children under three years old and helping manage a farm business is not an easy task.

For Kirsty Williams, Mount Sarah Station, this was made even harder with her located about 1800 kilometres from her university, more than 1000km from her nearest capital city, and 80km from her nearest centre of Oodnadatta.

Kirsty grew up north of Port Augusta on a sheep station, attending boarding school and university in Adelaide before studying teaching.

She taught at Port Augusta and Orroroo before heading north again.

"I never had a plan to go back but I met a boy," she said.

Her and husband Cameron Williams began managing Mount Sarah Station, near the NT border, when their eldest daughter Lucy was three months old.

Despite growing up on a station, Kirsty said she was still surprised by the realities that came from being quite so isolated, particularly as she was at home with her child and not working.

But she said the "amazing" community in the region really made a difference.

She went back to teaching at Oodnadatta two days a week before her second child George was born.

"As much as I loved the lifestyle, I felt I needed to do something to extend my brain a bit," she said.

"I needed something other than changing nappies, bookwork and cooking dinner."

She signed up for a Graduate Diploma in Psychology through Monash University, after first checking it was 100 per cent online.

The course was "intense" and required more than 30 hours of work each week.

Kirsty said she would do her usual jobs during the day before studying at night.

"I could kick some serious goals at night when all the day-to-day distractions of the business went away," she said.

"I knew it wasn't forever and I loved learning."

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Adding to her responsibilities, Kirsty and Cam had a third child, Jack, while she was studying, but she was only able to defer the course for a maximum of six months.

"I'd be feeding a newborn while sitting up, working," she said.

"When I finished, I had no idea how I fitted in the time, since I'm still so busy."

Studying in an isolated area has its own challenges.

"Probably the biggest challenge was the internet as we didn't have Sky Muster at the time," she said.

She said a big part of her success came from the support of her family, who enabled her to find the time to study.

She has since graduated and said receiving her certificate gave her "that elation of finishing".

"Learning is such a good investment, you can never stop learning," she said.

"It is possible to do study, regardless of where you live - you're never too old.

"There are so many opportunities but it's about taking them."

Kirsty and Cameron believe in giving back to their community.

"I love where I live and love the lifestyle," Kirsty said.

"It's nothing for us to drive 250 kilometres for a barbecue, it's what you do."

Both are on the Oodnadatta Race Club committee while Cameron is involved with Marla-Oodnadatta Natural Resources.

Kirsty is the Isolated Children's Parents' Association Marla-Oodnadatta branch president, School of the Air Parents and Friends chair and Remote and Isolated Children's Exercise chair.

This year she is also one of 16 women across the state involved in the Stepping Into Leadership course through PIRSA and Ag Consulting Co.

"I wanted to step out of my comfort zone," she said.

"I can widen my network and it's a bit of a challenge for myself."

This community contribution put Kirsty in good stead when it came to her application for the EJ Connellan Award, through the Connellan Airways Trust, to help fund some of her university course.

The Connellan Airways Trust was established in 1981 with executive officer Jessica Hacket saying its goal is to support people and organisations in isolated and outback Australia with opportunities and experiences they would otherwise miss out on.

The EJ Connellan Award, which is worth up to $20,000, helps support outback people with further study and research.

Jessica said Kirsty "exemplified" the goals of the grant, with her community focus.

Kirsty said having that backing helped her to see the course through.

Since finishing the course, Kirsty, who has had a fourth child, Lenny, has signed up for more study, although the emphasis is on short-courses and webinars for the interim.

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