Helen Kempe

For 50 years Helen has been an avid supporter of her outback community.

Helen Kempe 2018 1000 pixels SQUAREHelen's first start in the Northern Territory came when she accepted a position as a governess on Muckaty Station, north of Tennant Creek in 1967. Helen took the job purely because her family, which had been living on Kidman’s Macumba Station in far northern South Australia, had moved to Adelaide where her dad got a job in the head office and was Kidman’s pastoral inspector.

Helen was desperate to get back out bush so her cousin Rebecca Cadzow contacted her mum and dad and asked if she would like to be a governess.  She said she would go for a year and stayed for about seven.

Moving North Helen immersed herself in the community through volunteering, becoming involved in campdrafts, rodeos, bush racing carnivals and the Country Women’s Association.

She was also dedicated to the Isolated children’s Parents’ Association and had a stint as the Northern Territory branch’s secretary.

After working on several stations as a governess, in 1989 she moved to Tennant Creek to work for the government. Helen believes her knack for being able to hear through static and interruptions on a two-way radio helped her secure the role with the Department of Primary Industries. Her job entailed listening to the radio every day for our stock inspectors, the biosecurity officers.  They were located all around the Barkly, from Lake Nash right up to Elliott and Tennant Creek.  Helen joined the DPI at an exciting time and was soon involved in the national push to eradicate tuberculosis within the cattle industry. It was a hands-on role, and she personally helped co-ordinate thousands of test samples.  When working in the office, Helen helped spearhead a local events calendar which listed campdrafts and rodeos.  People started asking if they could include their head stockman’s course and the Northern Territory Cattleman’s Association asked about including their AGM. It grew to being eight pages of key events in Tenant Creek, the Barkly and beyond.

Life has come full circle for Helen, who has now chosen to retire on Mt Riddock Station, near Alice Springs. Interestingly enough, the manager of the property Steve Cadzow, used to be Helen’s student when she was a governess.  So far, Helen has adjusted to retirement well, and is grateful the Cadzow family welcomed her to their property.  “There are plenty of opportunities here.  I can volunteer and I will help out around the station where I can.  There will always be a lawn to be watered and chooks to feed.” Said Helen.

As a keen photographer Helen loves her outback surroundings.  Her childhood home Macumba Station was on the edge of the Simpson Desert so she loves wide open spaces. Mr Riddock also happens to be in a prime spot for Helen to delve deeper into her photography, as it is surrounded by the iconic Harts Range. ‘When I look out my window on the station all I can see are these beautiful ranges, they change colour throughout the day.  So I am dying to get to photograph them and I want to practice night photography as well. There are plenty of stars.’

Although her Connellan Airways Trust Outback Achiever Award is now a few days old and Helen has had time to reflect. When interviewed by ABC Radio Helen said “she really didn’t feel she was doing anything out of the ordinary.” The Trust disagrees. Chairman Mark Coffey says “Helen is a thoroughly deserving recipient of the award and has been recognised because she epitomizes the vision and purpose of the Connellan Airways Trust to improve the social and economic outcomes for people living in Outback Australia so it may prosper.There aren’t many corners of the NT where there isn’t someone that has been touched by Helen’s kind, gentle heart.”