School of they air: ‘Thanks Gympie region’
DEANNE Jones is feeling an unfamiliar emotion - optimism.
Ms Jones teaches at the Longreach School of Distance Education, also often known as the School of the Air.
She was in Gympie to thank supporters of a campaign by local racing identities and well known drought philanthropists, Stan and Marilyn Johnson to take gifts out to drought-affected families in Queensland's west.
The campaign received strong support from Gympie region's three Lions clubs.
Recently Ms Jones, who is parent liaison officer with the school, got the chance to say thanks.
And although recent rains have not fallen everywhere that needs it and although more is needed in many areas, it has been a welcome relief for many from the tedious disaster they have been living with for years.
Or perhaps it was the chance to visit Gympie during the school holidays and spend some time among some of the outback's best friends.
"Yes, I'm starting to feel optimistic," she said during her visit.
"It was getting too hard. I needed a break from out there.
She said she hardly knew most of the people who had helped, until her visit.
"Stan and Marilyn and their family - they're just non-stop," she said of the Johnston's campaign to help, now more than three years old.
Ms Jones said it was good to have the chance to tell people just how much their efforts mean.
"The Older Women's Network contacted Stan and they started a bit of an adopt-a-family thing, for a family of a grandfather, son and daughter and their family on the road, where they were droving their cattle.
"There are quite a few families on the road," she said.
Now, most of the students have iPads from Gympie. And that helps them with their school work while travelling with mum to town on feed and water runs.
Desperate times have taken a toll on the school as well. The drier it got the smaller the numbers became, as people left the land.
"I'm hoping they come back, but I think a few families can't. It's been dire for a lot of them," she said.
Deanne says she hopes the pastures recover quickly.
"Hopefully there will be enough so feed costs come down rather than go up as people re-stock," she said.