Having spent almost all her life in the bush, Rhonda White is no stranger to putting the kettle on when someone ‘blows in’. Now in retirement and living amongst new friends, that kettle is still getting a workout.
Born in the pastoral town of Burra, located 156km north of Adelaide, South Australia, Rhonda has always felt at home in the bush. She completed her junior years of schooling in Burra and her senior years in Adelaide, where she also went on to study nursing.
With her qualification in hand, she travelled after graduating but returned when her brother required heart surgery. He was born with a heart condition which he lived with for 22 years, but it meant he faced many challenges during his short life.
“It’s with thanks to my brother that I met my husband,” says Rhonda. “My brother was meant to be the best man at a friend’s wedding but when he was unable to do that another friend of the groom’s stepped in. The other friend was Trevor, a young dairy farmer, and I met him for the first time at that wedding. I ended up marrying him!”
Rhonda and Trevor made their early life together on a dairy farm in the Adelaide Hills and welcomed two daughters. When they decided to sell up, Trevor was invited to manage a pastoral company near Broken Hill.
“He’d worked with dairy cattle all his life, so at first he didn’t know if he could make the change to sheep and beef cattle,” says Rhonda. “I told him he could, so he accepted and made a great success of it.”
Later, the family returned to Adelaide, but this wasn’t long-lasting. Trevor was invited to manage Retreat Station on the Barcoo River in Queensland. This time he didn’t hesitate.
“Retreat Station is about 270 kilometres south of Longreach, and roughly 50 kilometres from Jundah and 70 kilometres from Windorah,” says Rhonda. “We lived there for 21 years and have wonderful memories.”
“We battled the biggest flood on record. Trevor was in hospital in Longreach when the waters peaked at 12.3 metres, and there I was with just a handful of staff who, like me, had declined to be evacuated. Trevor was eventually flown home by the Channel 7 helicopter and some time later, when we were holidaying in the Barossa Valley, a woman came up to us and said she’d seen us on television. Apparently, unbeknown to us, we were all over the news!”
“Another memorable moment from our time on the station was meeting Queen Elizabeth – for the second time. I’d been lucky enough to meet her and Prince Phillip years earlier as a teenager and it was much more nerve-racking back then as had to curtsey in high heels. As a bush girl who was used to wearing boots, this was quite a challenge. But I didn’t fall flat on my face as I thought I might. I didn’t embarrass myself at the second meeting either, which was at the opening of the Longreach Hall of Fame. I was part of the fundraising committee and was invited to the opening.”
“It was an adventurous life, but the time came for us to retire and we chose Hervey Bay. We had some lovely years there – we made some wonderful friends – and lived in a nice house on an acre of land only 2km from the beach.”
“Sadly, Trevor developed prostate cancer and it progressed into metastatic bone cancer. I lost him in 2017 after 53 years of marriage. While I was surrounded by wonderful friends, in time I decided to move closer to my daughters. One lived on the Sunshine Coast and the other at Jandowae.”
“I didn’t think the busy Sunshine Coast would suit me, so my daughter in Jandowae did the rounds and fell in love with Oak Tree Darling Heights. She knew I’d love it too, and she was right.”
“I didn’t actually see my villa until the day I moved in. It truly is beautiful. And the people – I couldn’t ask for better neighbours. We just clicked. We laugh together and have a great time – there are morning teas, breakfasts, and lots of outings and activities to join in with if you want to. It’s up to you.”
“We support each other through the difficult times too. We’re all great friends, and we’re always there for one another to call on.”
And at Rhonda’s, the kettle is always hot and the cups ready!