We joined a group of young carers for a day out at Quentin Park during the July school holidays. Quentin Park lies about forty kilometres southwest of Dubbo near the town of Tomingley. At first sight it could be mistaken for your average, bog standard, run of the mill farm – but once you venture up the drive towards the one-hundred-year-old farmhouse, what you’ll discover is something quite different.
Quentin Park specialises in unique hands-on Alpaca experiences. Alpacas are the smallest members of the camel family – they’re like llamas, but smaller. After being given a warm welcome, our guide told us a little about these shy, woolly creatures. We learned that Alpacas are often used to guard sheep and chickens due the high-pitched bray they make to warn their herd of intruders, and that although generally timid and gentle, if you rub them up the wrong way they are inclined to spit, really spit. Oh goody!
At last, we were ready to venture into the Alpaca enclosure for a close encounter of the woolly kind. It was lunch time (the Alpaca’s, not ours) and apparently, we were going to hand feed them. Alpacas can be excitable creatures, so this is not a task for the faint hearted (no spitting please) however our brave young carers had it all in hand (no pun intended) and the Alpacas enjoyed a feast of fibrous, grainy pellet treats – yum!
After the excitement of the Alpacas, we caught up with Chris, a veteran, having attended several Young Carer Camps and Fun Days in the past. For him, the best thing about the Young Carer Program has been meeting and making friends with young carers from all over regional NSW – young people he may not otherwise have met. Watching these energetic young people talking, laughing, and really connecting with each other, it was easy to see the benefits of having a break from their caring responsibilities.
The day’s activities were organised by Stacey Henley, a Young Carer Support Planner. We asked her why she believes activities such as these are important, and she explained.
“Many of the young carers we work with have a sibling who has a disability, and a common theme I hear is that the sibling has an NDIS plan which allows them to go out and get involved in fun activities with their support worker, but young carers don’t get the same opportunities.“
“Our Young Carer Holiday Fun Days aim to recognise the great job these young carers do by providing free, fun school holiday activities. It’s a chance to make new friends while enjoying a day that’s all about them!”
After lunch (our lunch, not the Alpaca’s) it was time for us to get creative making and decorating kites. The team at Quentin Park supplied all the materials and guided us through the process. That was the easy part. Getting those kites airborne was another matter altogether and sadly there were more than a few false starts. Just when we thought they were destined to remain grounded, a light breeze began to stir and one by one, much to everyone’s delight, the handmade kites, complete with long, ribbon tails, lifted off and took flight, soaring up into the afternoon sky. It was an amazing sight.
Eventually, as all good things must end, so too did our day at Quentin Park. Elated but weary, we climbed back on board the bus, and headed home, our young carers already chattering eagerly about catching up with their friends, both old and new, at the next young carer event.
If you’re one of Australia’s 2.7 million unpaid carers, you can access practical advice and support by contacting Carer Gateway on 1800 422 737.