OT and GAPS in the bush...

Oct 03, 2016



I'm still on a high from our week at Camp Cobbold.  It's been an incredible week both for me as an OT, and for my children, who were lucky enough to participate in the camp.

Camp Cobbold is a camp attended by families living on stations in outback Queensland, with some ring-ins from towns (like us).  There were over 120 children and more than 50 adults at the camp, as well as a host of volunteers who ensured everything happened with energy and positivity.  The camp has a rich program of activities for children including woodwork, canoeing, and science activities.  For the adults there was free hairdressing, beautician and massage services as well as workshops about a wide array of topics including fermented foods, breast cancer myths and jewellery making.

And there was a Health Hub where children, adults or families could access free health services - and that was where I hung out.  I worked from an airy tent and did lots of my appointments on a blanket on the grass. 


After my first appointment I heard a little rustle as a resident goanna came to check out whether he should have an OT or GAPS appointment while I was there.  He looked in pretty good nick so he didn't end up booking in to see me, but I was grateful for the visit. 

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It was a busy week for me.  Most days were fully booked and some families took the opportunity for second and third appointments.  I really had to think on my feet as I never knew what each appointment would require - OT is so broad that it can be anything from toileting, behaviour, fine motor skills, sensory processing issues to attention and concentration and beyond.  Add GAPS into the mix and it kind of felt like I was speed dating sometimes.  But I really loved the challenge, I loved practicing thinking fast (I tend to be a bit like my goanna friend and travel in a slower, calm space most of the time!) 

It was lovely to be able to stay with the families and get to know them informally too.  That added an extra dimension for me, and meant that I developed stronger connections with some of the families. 

I was so impressed at the strength and vibrancy of these women and children from the bush.  They seemed to have a resilience and sense of community that perhaps we've lost when we live closer to the comforts of modern towns.  And quite possibly Camp Cobbold has been one of the key events in fostering that sense of community in the last 8 years.  These women seemed to support each other, to be able to rely on each other, to gracefully ask for help when it was needed...  And I was incredibly impressed to find a community so well educated about gut health and food!  There are quite a few gut health evangelists out there on the stations and in the remote towns and they've been working hard at spreading the word and sharing skills about eliminating processed foods and sugar, learning to make probiotic foods and taking care of your body, mind and spirit.  Hats off to those dedicated women - you're having a great impact!!!

I can't really tell a story about Camp Cobbold though without making mention of one very special woman - the one and only Katarina Keough!


Katarina, with her mum Min, had a vision years ago to make a camp.  And Katarina, who homeschools her own family on their station, decided she would design a camp that was everything she wanted for her own children and also for her community.  And she spared no detail or dream at all.  My own homeschooled children got to experience many firsts that school kids probably take for granted - attending a fancy dress disco, a formal dinner, receiving public awards for little efforts that were noticed, informal group sports and following a timetable of events and classes.  All of the children absolutely loved it, and so did the families.  I'm sure I'm not alone in saying that we are all in awe and extremely grateful to Katarina and Min for having the vision and dedication to create such an incredible event.

And the children I worked with were honest, down-to-earth and keen to learn.  I loved playing with them and hearing their perspective on their challenges, and problem solving with them about how to overcome their troubles.  There is something about bush kids that is thoroughly refreshing and inspiring, and they had great insight into what strategies would make a difference in their lives.


I'll treasure lots of great memories of my week being an outreach OT... the amazing lightening as the wild storm tried to drown out the awesome concert, floating down the gorge and discovering a Bandy Bandy snake and even the long drive through the bush! 

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Awesome families, awesome place, awesome camp, awesome week!!!  Thanks Camp Cobbolders!  We sure hope we see our new friends again!


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