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28 October 2014
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From Jersey Cows to Saltwater Crocodiles


Andrew with wife Katrina and daughter Emilyn
Andrew with Katrina and Emilyn

Family Life

By Andrew Crowhurst
The isolation of living in Katherine is a challenge for any family. As Andrew Crowhurst describes, even shopping and seeing the family when you live in the Northern Territory can pose a few obstacles...


For a mum with a young daughter, life must have been hard.

Katrina had left her family and friends down south and come up with me and was having to start a fresh. Whilst wanting to get out and make friends and join the local playgroups, the hot climate was keeping them indoors close to the air-conditioning.

Whilst I was at work all day, Kate was able to get some work from School of the Air and mark some of the assignments. However, this was not that consistent and life must have been pretty lonely, especially in those early months.

A year down the track, she has developed a good circle of friends, all young mums and now has a busy time of it. She regularly takes Emilyn to the local pool or the hot springs for a swim and has lunch in one of the air-conditioned  cafes on the High street.

An Australian 'road-train'
Australian road train, 3 trucks long.

In addition, Katherine has three pubs, one of which is nice enough to take the family (does a very good Guinness) and a couple of reasonably good restaurants. Our favourite, the local Chinese allows you to enjoy your food whilst watching the huge road trains (huge lorries towing three carriages) roar down the Victoria Highway. Quite a contrast to the ocean views we enjoyed in Lennox.

Having close family down in Sydney must have been hard as all the flights leave Darwin at one o’clock in the morning and this is before you have driven the four hours to the airport. Hence, for both sets of grandparents (mine have moved from St. Clement to the Gold Coast), it has not been easy getting to know their granddaughter.

My parents, Kevin and Olive Crowhurst, visited Katherine in early September and I do not think they will rush back due to the culture shock. It was only by coming themselves that they were able to appreciate the isolation and see some of the local issues.

Whilst we have no intentions of staying here indefinitely, and would love to move back to Lennox within the next 12 to 18 months, we would not have missed this for the world.

Another restriction with Katherine is shopping. There is one supermarket - Woolworths which is able to charge what it likes for groceries, as can the local pharmacy which has a monopoly. House hold items, baby clothes and shoes, sports equipment and sundries often have to be ordered in or purchased in Darwin.

However, Katherine is the mango capital of the country, a great delicacy that we make the most of during the hot build up.

As well as work, we have had the opportunity to see  and experience the Territory having had trips to Darwin, Kakadu, Timber creek as well as camping in the beautiful Kimberlies with their Boab trees and walking with Emilyn in the back pack amongst the majestic beehive domes of the Bungle Bungles. The four wheel drive has been essential for accessing a lot of these places as well as carrying the family and camping equipment.

After the close proximity and small amount of space in Jersey, the vastness of the Top End came as quite a shock. Three hours drive is very standard to go fishing on a weekend and that is each way at over 100km an hour. Five hours to the West Australian Boarder and Kununurra whilst just short of four to Darwin.

Fortunately there is no speed limit and other than road trains and caravans, not a huge amount of traffic, so enabling you to eat into the distances. Wildlife, such as kangaroos, wild pigs and cattle are an ever present danger as are the occasional  drunk drivers. Several times I have nearly been knocked off my push bike in the early morning by a startled kangaroo or wallaby!

Territorians also like their beer, hardly surprising in view of the climate, and claim to be the biggest drinkers in the country. Unfortunately, many lovely spots around Katherine and the local countryside are littered with empty green cans and wine casks as well as the occasional body sleeping off the effects of last night's binge. Petrol sniffing and cannabis also crop up as do amphetamines although harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin seem to be less of a problem than down south.

One exciting trip we had this time last year took us across the East Alligator River into Arnhem Land to visit some friends of Katrina’s working on the aboriginal community of Oenpelli.

Five hours drive from Katherine, taking us through Kakadu and across Cahill’s crossing, the tidal barrage over the river which is infamous for its large crocs. Having arrived late Friday afternoon for a long weekend, we had no sooner climbed out the car and opened a cold beer before the phone rang and the hospital had tracked us down.

"When it comes to sport, I am still very British and when competing in an Athletics event, proudly wear my Jersey Spartan vest."
Andrew Crowhurst

There had been an outbreak of Hemophilus influenza type B and all the children from several of the local playgroups had to be given prophylactic antibiotics the next day. Due to the tide, we couldn’t come straight back, so headed back at the crack of dawn Saturday morning arriving in Katherine at midday ready to go to work.

A very busy but equally rewarding afternoon saw both myself and the community pharmacist from down town make up and administer the required medication to nearly all the kids who could be contacted and bought in at such notice. It was a long way to go for dinner and we never did get back to Arnhem Land as the river soon came up cutting off the community and could not be crossed again until April.

However, we got to see England beat South Africa that night in their triumphant world cup campaign. We saw the final at the Cooinda Resort at Yellow waters in Kakadu. The bar was packed with loads of good natured patriotic Aussies wearing their gold shirts and a handful of very loud Poms for what was a hugely memorable night.

Despite over six years down under and now a citizen of my adopted country, when it comes to sport, I am still very British and when competing in an Athletics event, proudly wear my Jersey Spartan vest.

Hence, since leaving the “Rock” in August 1998, life has been transformed totally and I have been fortunate to go and work in places and meet people who I would not have been able to had I not taken the plunge.

Andrew, Katrina and Emilyn
Andrew, Katrina and Emilyn

Pharmacy is one of those few professions that enables one to fairly easily find work down here and has opened a succession of doors. Life has changed a lot since working in the Jersey General Hospital Pharmacy, and I would not hesitate in recommending taking the plunge to anyone considering taking a career break to come and try life down here.

The jewel in the crown was meeting Katrina, at a Half marathon of all things, who I am now married to and shares with me our beautiful daughter Emilyn. 

last updated: 09/11/04
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Ellen Barr
Hi Andy good your read your very interesting letter about family life in Australia. I write (not email) regular letters to Gail and Paul in Perth. I still miss my friend but wish them all the luck out in Perth. I am still running with the club although an op on my foot last year and a dislocated and fracured shoulder at Christmas has knocked me back a bit ( age also being a big factor now)I have heard that your mum & dad are coming back to Jersey ? Are you and Katrina and Emilyn planning any trips back here ? Good Luck with your life Andy and enjoy it to the full. Best wishes Ellen

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