Revving up life with Outback Stores
Shkarra was working as a duty manager at IGA in her hometown of Ballina, when a colleague told her about the roles that were available in remote Indigenous community stores. That night she came home and mentioned it to her partner, Matthew, who had worked as a store manager at Kmart but was currently working in car sales. He applied to Outback Stores the very next day, and less than two weeks later they both had job offers.
Although not usually ones to make big spontaneous decisions, they both decided to seize the day. They had been feeling that their lives were in a rut, and they wanted something different.
Top: Matt fishing at Roper Bar.
Bottom: Shkarra with community members at Ngukurr.
We had a lot of fun with the locals, made good friends and did a lot of fishing.
One month later they had packed up the house, sold their car and boat, and were flying to Darwin to begin their induction.
Their first experience of community life was in Beswick, where they spent two weeks in training and were warmly welcomed by the community.
“Once we arrived in Beswick we had people not wanting us to leave. We were invited to footy games. It was an easy transition,” said Shkarra.
Then they spent eight months as co-managers of the store in Ngukurr, a larger but more remote community, located on the banks of the Roper River in southern Arnhem Land.
“We had a lot of fun with the locals, made good friends and did a lot of fishing,” said Matt.
They both agree that remote community work has taught them a lot about adaptability, and that the role would suit those willing to try new things, who are up for some fun, and don’t take themselves too seriously.
“You can’t bring your management style from the east coast. You need to learn how to let go, and not sweat the small stuff,” says Shkarra.
Top: Weekend camping trips in Central Australia.
Bottom: Holidaying on the ski fields of Japan.
You need to learn how to let go, and not sweat the small stuff.
The couple are now enjoying the desert landscapes of Central Australia, where they have been working over a year in Santa Teresa, 85km south-east of Alice Springs.
On the weekends Matt and Shkarra often explore the desert on their motorbikes or sleep under the stars in their camper trailer, which they’ve also taken to Uluru and the Finke Desert Race.
“The luxury of living remote is that you can drive ten minutes anywhere and have a cup of tea under the stars. It’s pretty picturesque everywhere you go around here,” says Matt.
Shkarra and Matt make the most of their spare time in community, easily keeping themselves entertained and challenged. During the last few months, they have been learning about and investing in the stock market, and are also planning on buying a house.
With no rent to pay, they easily saved up money to spend on overseas holidays to Japan and Bali. “When we’re on holiday we go big. We don’t hold back”, says Matt, who is planning a golfing trip to South Australia with his mates in November.
The couple are looking forward to being able to travel internationally again, once travel restrictions eventually ease. They’re hoping to visit Ireland to celebrate Shkarra’s 30th birthday at the end of next year. But for the moment, they are enjoying the advantages of a COVID-free life, living under the wide desert sky of Central Australia.
“We absolutely love it here in Santa Teresa,” says Shkarra.
Outback Stores is currently hiring remote community store managers. Click here to learn more.
Top: Spectacular sunsets in Ali Curung on delivery day.
Middle: Shkarra and colleagues in Santa Teresa receiving their Certificate IV in Retail Management.
Bottom: Matt and Shkarra in their backyard at Santa Teresa.