Words Ellie Russell / Photos Jane Smith & Boots Off Apron On
When it comes to raising a family on the land in the remote region of the Far West kids don’t miss out on too much. They get to learn some of the best life skills like how to cook their grandmother’s famous biscuits or how to grow their own veggies – but what they don’t get is the traditional style of schooling, instead they attend a special kind of school – the School Of The Air.
Pixie Moses and Bree Wakefield are two local far west women very familiar with School Of The Air (SOTA) and have made it their mission and business to support, promote and grow the Broken Hill SOTA services in their region through the creation of BOOTS OFF apron on, a cookbook celebrating the many tried and tested recipes of families who benefit from the SOTA services.
Pixie and Bree recently spoke with FWL to share a little about how the project came about and why it is so important for us all to get behind this incredible initiative. For those unfamiliar with the concept of SOTA, it is a unique community of outback families who don’t have access to a primary school close by. With Broken Hill SOTA, teachers in Broken Hill send out schoolwork to families for their children to complete with the help of a parent or governess at home. Traditionally SOTA was conducted over the radio where children would communicate with their teachers via radio.
“Most students have their own schoolroom at home and some even do their work at the kitchen table,” Pixie explains. “We also have a few traveling students whose classroom might be in a different place from week to week. Long gone are the days of lessons via a radio.“”With the advances of modern technology, our students now have air lessons on a computer. The teacher has a live video stream and is able to call on students via video or microphone to speak to the class.”
“Our kids don’t have to ‘learn to adapt’ to this lifestyle, it’s all they know. It’s what they have grown up with.”
Pixie, her husband and two daughters live on and manage Avenel Station located 140km from Broken Hill where their girls have both completed their schooling through the Broken Hill SOTA. Bree, her husband and their three children live on Banoon Station located 75km from Mildura, Victoria (approximately 4 hours from Broken Hill) which makes them the most southern property in SOTA. The two women connected through their roles on the fundraising committee of the Parents and Citizens Association (P&C) for the SOTA in 2014 along with a number of other passionate outback mums. “We made a two-year commitment and raised a significant amount of money for the school. It was suggested at a P&C meeting that the committee update the school cookbook,” the ladies explain.
“The school was celebrating its 60th anniversary in September 2016 and it was decided a new cookbook would be a great way to mark the event.” The creation of the book took about nine months and proved to be a huge workload for Pixie and Bree being located 500km from one another. “We spent a lot of time emailing and speaking on the phone. All of the recipes were submitted to us online, along with the photos from the school community.”
“Nothing was more satisfying during that period; than when our internet would start a new month and we’d have a few days of high speed, before it was quickly gone from downloading images and uploading them to the spreadsheet we used to create the book…”
The ladies have credited a fellow SOTA mother (and previous FWL feature story), Jane Smith, for her efforts and help during the process. “At the drop of a hat Jane would style and photograph anything we asked of her. She designed our gorgeous book cover and continues to contribute photos, as we need them.” ≠“What we have created is worth every late night, the countless hours and all those stressed phone calls to each other.”
BOOTS OFF apron on has proved to be a huge success for the Broken Hill SOTA having sold approximately 2,500 copies across every state in Australia including some sales internationally, and third print run has just been finalised. The book comprises 194 pages (10 chapters) of beautiful recipes and photography capturing the essence of bush life in the region. From smoko through to dinner time and dessert, the recipes have your household covered!