Originally intended as a place to stay ‘in town’ for people coming in from the stations and homesteads in the surrounding areas, our 30-bed Katherine Hostel still has that country feel.

The aged care home is spacious, with the atmosphere of a small village community, and open doors allow cooling breezes in to beat the Northern Territory heat. Our residents come from all over the Territory – from as close as Pine Creek just up the Stuart Highway, to Ngukurr to the east, Kalkaringi in the south-west,  and even as far south as Kaltukatjara (Docker River).

Betty Jarman was probably born farther away than most – in Ingham – and spent much of her life in Pentland in Far North Queensland, where her husband worked at the meatworks.

Betty has a daughter and a son-in-law farming in the Territory but she says she’s not really a country girl and anyway, when the kids are out on the property, sometimes all night, she feels pretty isolated.

“I like it here,” she says. “I get lonely out on the farm.”

She describes her room, which is decorated with photos of family and friends, as “lovely, with a lovely breeze”.

“I’ve got a lot of friends here and I enjoy the company of the others living here.”

Betty originally started coming to the hostel for respite care but decided to stay. With palms and trees and well-planned grassy areas, it’s a peaceful place, tucked down a side street away from the main street in Katherine.

Each person has their own room and each room has its own shower and toilet. Low and high-level care needs are catered for.

Team leader Mabs Gorringe has worked in the Territory for many years and says residents hold a meeting every month to discuss any issues they may have, with staff doing their best to respond to them.

But no one has any issues with the food, and a visit to the kitchen indicates why. It is as happy a place as you’re ever likely to come across.

It is staffed by two smiling sisters, Joan Fairweather and Shirley Walit, who take pride in making everything fresh. The sisters, from the Tiwi Islands, have been here for seven years and have no plans of leaving.

Handyman Terre Prime is another happy staffer who has been here for many years. Born in Avon in South Australia, Terre started working in aged care in 2007, originally for the Red Cross.

He’s been in Katherine a long time now and knows the families of just about everyone who lives in the hostel.

He reckons that you’re free to be yourself in the Territory: “You’re accepted for what/who you are.” He plans on staying on for a good while yet.

Published: October 2019

Find out more about ARRCS Katherine Hostel

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