From Sheep Farming To Tartan Skirts…
At the beginning of 2016, Claire Tully packed up her belongings at her home in Quilpie, and began the long journey into Toowoomba, to begin boarding at Fairholme College.
It takes about ten hours to drive from the small town, situated in the Channel Country of South West Queensland. The town’s population is smaller than the student population at Fairholme College, with 574 people counted at the last census. The economy relies on the grazing and mining industries. Claire’s family farms sheep and cattle, and her Mum is a school teacher.
“Last year there were two students in my grade and 54 students in total at my school, Quilpie State College. It was really scary for me coming from that to Fairholme where there’s 800 students, where I would live with about 200 of the students.”
The Year 8 Boarder says she’s been lost finding her classroom a few times, and at first, couldn’t believe the noise in the dining room at dinner.
At first the homesickness was hard. But Claire says, with incredible support, she had adjusted to her new school quickly.
“There’s so many nice people who helped me and are now my friends.” She sighs and smiles and says, “And Mrs Sutton. I just love going to sit in her room.”
Even the uniform took some time to adjust to.
“Well, at my old school it was just black shorts and a shirt, and you could wear whatever shoes you wanted, but here it’s strictly uniform. Skirts!” She gasps, “I am not used to skirts. At first I was like – eww - but now I actually like it.”
Claire used to jump on her horse and go riding with her cousin and next door neighbour at home. Now at Fairholme she plays Tennis, Touch and has taken Dance classes.
“There are so many activities to be involved in at Fairholme, to take your mind off being away. I’d never played tennis before and I love it! And I’d played a bit of touch, but I really love playing it here with all the girls. Last term I went to my first ever Dance class.” She smiles broadly, showing a hint of pride in the strength she’s found within herself since becoming a Boarder.
Claire stays in close contact with her family, and calls home every day.
“When I ring Dad puts me on the phone to ‘George’. He’s my pet sheep. He baaaa’s at me down the phone,” she laughs. “I just say ‘Hey George’.”
Hundreds of kilometres away from the red outback plains of Quilpie, Claire strolls out of the Boarding House and runs across the green College grounds to catch up with a group of girls headed to class, already so at home on this new journey.