INTERVIEW WITH VICKI OLDS – DIRECTOR – OUTBACK MOBILE RESOURCE UNIT
FOR CONNECTIONS MAGAZINE – ISSUE ONE (MARCH 2019)
The Outback Mobile Resource Unit (OMRU) is a children’s service providing both licensed childcare and play group sessions to children and families in remote and isolated regions of Far Western New South Wales. In 2016 OMRU took over the running of the Tibooburra Multi-Purpose Centre. Tibooburra is 350kms north of Broken Hill and approximately 55kms from the Queensland border. OMRU has recently participated in the CCSA Sector Support Program.
What are the biggest challenges running a mobile service in a rural and remote area?
Our service covers a huge area of approximately 220,000 km² and is bounded by the South Australian, Queensland and Victorian borders. We travel approximately 43,000kms each year.
Due to the distances we travel, we regularly spend up to four nights a week out of town, and sometimes only conduct three sessions a week because the remaining two days are for travel. Add to that the small attendance numbers we have due to isolation, and the figures do not look good on paper. This can make it hard to justify our costs and existence to government departments.
The distance also means we can only visit each area once every 3 or 4 weeks, which limits our time with each child and makes individual programming problematic.
Tell us about one of your recent projects and what you were trying to achieve?
For the past 5 years we have had an ongoing project holding “School Days” in the small community of Milparinka (population 10). Up to 12 families (over 30 children) live in the area, with all school-aged children attending School of the Air.
On these days, the families travel in from their properties (up to 200km away), and school aged children participate in their satellite lessons while interacting face-to-face with their peers, instead of just online.
Our service sets up in a different area and engages with the children who are not yet at school. School aged children are welcomed to join in with our play sessions, and we also run activities suitable for all ages; including science, cooking, craft and physical activities.
How did this project influence how your service operates?
It has provided us with some regularity, and gives the parents and community more confidence that they have consistency in their children’s education and social development.
What is the greatest reward from operating your service?
The opportunity to provide remote families with not only a playgroup for children but a support system within the community. Knowing you are making a difference, and the appreciation you get from the parents.
The smiles on the faces from the children when they see the work vehicle pull in, and the embarrassment you feel when one of your kids sees you in a café and screams your name at the top of their lungs!
How did the sector support program from CCSA help your service?
Our CCSA Sector Support Project Officer was instrumental in helping us get our heads around the Start Strong program and how to manage our funding for Tibooburra Multi-Purpose Centre. CCSA has always been available to assist with any questions we have had, and the support provided has been invaluable.
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN CONNECTIONS MAGAZINE ISSUE ONE