Would you like to commute to work across the sea?
Once a month Jade Rhodes flies to King Island to provide outreach support to local families.
As a Community Services Worker with Anglicare she is there to bring child wellbeing and mental health services to regional communities.
King Island sits smack bang in the middle of the 40th parallel south and is consistently blasted by strong westerly winds, the Roaring Forties.
“The flight can be very bumpy. I often experience big tummy drops as the plane gets tossed about,” said Jade.
“It’s not uncommon for us to approach the runway side-on to land, turning at the last possible moment. But I’m not scared of flying and the pilots are amazing. We wouldn’t take off if it was too dangerous”.
Flights are delayed when the wind is too strong or if there’s a sea fog. The trip takes about 35 minutes. “The other passengers are generally also people who regularly fly to ‘KI’ for work and so know what to expect,” explained Jade.
Jade has been travelling between King Island and mainland Tasmania for most of her life. She called the Island home from age 5 until 2012. She grew up in the family home on her grandparent’s sheep farm and attended the King Island District School for her primary years. Later she boarded at Marist College in Burnie before attending university to obtain a Bachelor of Arts Degree, with Psychology and Sociology majors, then a Masters of Social Work (Qualifying Professional).
“Back when I first lived on KI the plane used to be a 5 seater – now that was small,” said Jade.
Her father, two of her brothers and sister still live on the Island. Her grandparents have sold the farm and have moved into the Island’s main town, Currie. Jade stays with them when travelling to the Island. But her trips, which are mostly for just one or two nights, have a demanding work schedule so there’s often little or even no time for socialising. But she does look forward to the local steak which is “the best”.
“In terms of doing my job it’s actually a bonus that the locals know who I am,” said Jade. “They don’t readily trust outsiders, so I’m more accepted because of my connections with KI. Also, it helps that I go away again and take their stories with me. They won’t bump into me at the supermarket because I don’t actually live there”.
Jade delivers most of her support at the King Island District School where she works with young people to maintain good mental health.
This includes strategies to deal with bullying, anxiety and self-esteem issues.
“Bullying is particularly an issue for the Island’s small community, because of the isolation,” said Jade. “There are only a couple of hundred students at the school and there is nowhere else for them to go to connect with others their age. They can’t go and hang out or play soccer with kids in the next suburb, or change schools.”
“One of the best things about the community is they absolutely rally around each other to support families experiencing a crisis, for example if a house burns down or if there is a cancer diagnosis in the family. And I feel it’s a good thing that nowadays, there is support for the kids to help them deal with what they are experiencing. I don’t remember anything like Anglicare or other services supporting the Island when I was growing up”.
Jade provides support to children during school hours, but also visits families at their homes around the island. In between, there are regular phone calls, texts and emails.
“I work with people up north, in Grassy, over on the eastern side, down south and in town,” said Jade.
Of her work Jade said, “I love the diversity of working with kids, they’re just amazing. Kids are honest, funny, ask questions and are willing to try almost anything. Whereas I find adults tend to be less flexible. I’m a big kid myself so I enjoy relating to children”.
The outreach services Jade delivers on King Island are an important part of Anglicare’s support for Tasmanian families. As Jade explained, “By intervening earlier we can nip things in the bud, and work things out before they snowball”.
You can find out more about Anglicare’s services at Supports for children, young people and their families or Call 1800 243 232