I have lived in Albany for nearly 20 years now, so I almost qualify as a ‘local’ but it still surprises people to learn that this has not always been the case.  Now, Albany is far from a bustling city environment, and some will say the lifestyle is too relaxed but my childhood was far more relaxed than this.  And as I have now come to realise, a bush childhood gives you a much different view of life than others, and quite often the unique outlook that it provides becomes a benefit to you as an adult.

You see, I was lucky enough to grow up on a small farm in the wheatbelt town of Corrigin.  Whilst Corrigin is closer to Perth than Albany is (you can be there in 2 hours) it has a population of only 700 people, give or take a few.  Our family farm was 12km out of town, and here my father and my uncles farmed for my Grandad Paul.  The Moldavia property (named after the Szczecinski home town in Polland) ran sheep, and grew wheat, barley, lupins and oats.  Dads three brothers lived nearby and they had kids similar in ages to my brother and I, so it was often him, my uncles and my cousins all at the farm together.   My Grandad was always around the house too.  He’d drop in for smoko and lunch – now he was a real cheeky character and was always stirring us up in one way or another!

I never gave much thought to my childhood being that different. Well, it wasn’t different to any of my school friends!  Even when I left home to live at a high school boarding college, growing up in a small town was the norm and most of my friends had lived the exact same childhood.

But, in a recent conversation I asked a friend what the first thing was she thought of when she thought of her childhood.  She replied “being cramped – there was four kids in a small house, always tussling for space”.  When I think of my childhood, I think about playing in the lilac tree in the front yard and making teepees in the bush.  The two responses are worlds apart.  And it has led me to realise that a lot of how I view the world today is a direct result of my rural upbringing.

#1 Country kids can entertain themselves.  Growing up on a farm we spent hours outside using our imagination, walking, riding or driving around the farm.  In fact, if we came in too early, we were sent back outside to play.  This has led to being able to find solutions to problems that may pop up from time to time in my working life.  Think Carly, what is another thing to try?

#2 Country kids are practical.  Due to fact there was so many men around growing up I never had to do any real farm work so I can’t attest to having learnt any practical farm skills – unless you call opening a gate skill. Any farmer’s child knows that when your Dad asks you to come and feed the sheep this was the reason why.  Hop out, open the gate, wait for the car, close the gate and then run to get back in…might not be practical but it sure was useful to Dad.  And there was no point in complaining about it either!

I learnt to drive when I was around 12.  We had a 1949 Ford Cortina which Mum & Dad brought us to take ourselves to the bus stop and back in.  Needless to say, I learnt some valuable lessons on safe driving the hard way!  But I look at teenagers now struggling to learn on the roads and many roundabouts and I’m very thankful for my farm driving lessons.

#3 Country kids are not all that.  Another valuable lesson I learnt was the world doesn’t revolve around me – it revolves around the weather.  When my sister was due to get married, she was given two options – after seeding or after harvest.  Our family holidays were always planned for the end of harvest and coming down south was always a treat to get away from a wheatbelt summer.

#4 Country kids know what they can, and what they can’t control.  Many people say that farmers are always talking about the weather – but this is because their whole life revolves around it.  No rain, too much rain, or rain when its not meant to rain can make or break their season.  What’s also true about farmers is that they accept what’s in and out of their control.  100mls just before harvest isn’t ideal and no doubt there will be a few expletive words – but soon after will be acceptance of it is what it is.

I’ve been coaching netball for over 20 years and when I get given a farmer’s kid to coach, I always know the experience will be different to a townie. To be honest, I love it.  And that’s because country kids don’t need things to be sugar coated – you can tell them how it is, and they accept it. And because they can accept it, their parents tend to give them honest feedback rather than telling how good they are each week. This is inline with how my parents managed my younger sporting life – I was always told to accept whatever team I was placed in, and they would never, ever think to criticize a volunteer coach.

#5 Country kids appreciate opportunity.  I remember to play netball; my Mum would often drive my brother and I on round trips over an hour long.  To make up team numbers, I played against girls well older than me, in positions I wouldn’t like.  But I took every chance and I always understood that I was lucky that my parents made the effort to take us to these events.  I think some kids today could learn from not having every pathway catered for them.  It really does make you appreciate what you do have.

Overall, I know that growing up in the Wheatbelt has shaped me to the person I am today and I am pretty happy with how I am.  Whilst there wasn’t ‘things to do’ like skate parks and movie theatres there also wasn’t much crime and we had a true sense of community.  Mum & Dad played golf and left us playing in the bush for hours knowing that we would be ok.  I can also say I’m never bored and I don’t need to be entertained – I can still use my imagination like when I was in the lilac tree.  As an adult I have mastered the art of accepting a situation for what it is and find I don’t let myself get worried about things that are outside of my control.  In a workplace such as Merrifield with our wonderful diverse team, knowing that I am one of many and not the centre of the office is a great outlook to bring to work.

I hope my colleagues and my clients also appreciate these character traits that can be attributed to my bush childhood.  I know I respect it in other people when I hear that they have had a small farm upbringing!


Written by Carly Szczecinski

Commercial & General Manager