WHEN Mary Wright needs something from the shops, it can sometimes mean a gruelling 12-hour drive in a car with four children under five.
The young mother from Mount Isa believes family support in isolated towns is one of the biggest challenges facing women with children living in regional areas.
“Because we live so far away and Mount Isa is one of those places that’s quite expensive to get to, if we wanted to get anywhere we have to drive to Townsville which is nine hours away, or a twelve-hour car drive with all the kids,” Mrs Wright, 34, said.
When in Townsville, the Catholic married woman who heads up the Mount Isa parish youth group, will make a list with her husband of items required for their home because her shopping options out west are only Kmart, Woolworths and Coles.
But distance and isolation has also been the family’s “biggest blessing”.
“Distance is our biggest challenge but we’ve also found it our biggest blessing,” Mrs Wright said.
“The community becomes your family because everybody else also don’t have many people around them.
“I take all four children to Mass, sometimes on my own, and I never have to worry about my kids.
“Young high school kids take a couple, older women take one or two, people are around helping us make that community.
“You really learn how to lean on other people and ask for help.
“That’s been our biggest lesson out here.”
Mrs Wright’s comments come after the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference invited Catholics in Australia to consider the challenges faced by women living in rural and remote regions for International Women’s Day.
Celebrated annually on March 8, IWD this year focuses on the rights and activism of rural women, like Mrs Wright, who make up a quarter of the world’s population.
Eight years ago Mrs Wright and her husband had “a three-year plan” to work in Mount Isa as teachers.
“We came as a young couple to do something different. I’d lived in Darwin my whole life, my husband moved around Perth, Sydney and Darwin,” she said.
Four children later, the support they have received from the parish and wider community inspired them to stay put in Mount Isa.
“We had no idea what beautifulness would come out of this little town,” Mrs Wright said. “We can’t leave.”
Despite the warm welcome in the community, life in Mount Isa for a young family is tough.
Just last weekend, when heavy rainfall swept through the town, the local supermarket ran out of bread, forcing the family to make bread at home.
The young mother had also sacrificed extra curricular activities to stay at home to care for her four children.
“Just having an extra pair of hands that we could call on, that’s been really challenging,” Mrs Wright said.
She said the isolation also forced people to “confront things about yourself, your partner and your family” quicker than women in the metropolitan cities.
“Out here you have to deal with issues head-on and straight away because there’s no time really for us to have a fight,” Mrs Wright said.
“We’ll have disagreements but you can’t hold on to those disagreements for very long.
“It’s hard, but beautiful.”
Mrs Wright said the leap of faith she and her husband took “honestly strengthened our faith life”.
“I’ve got no complaints”
On the other side of the Townsville diocese, Ayr Catholic woman Ellen Lund has a positive outlook on life in a regional town.
“Well, I’ve got no complaints, and I’ve lived here all my life,” Mrs Lund, 83, said.
“But I go out and make things happen.
“You might ring somebody and they might say it’s terrible, but I always think you’ve got to create your own.”
The mother of six sons, one of whom died when he was three-and-a-half, said she was able to meet all the challenges life in a regional town threw at her “because I don’t give in easily”.
“I say, ‘With trust in God’ – He’s the one that’s there, He’s the one that’s going to make it happen,” Mrs Lund said.
“God has been a big part of my life and I do think that all things happen through God.”
As a woman who “lived in a house full of men all my life”, Mrs Lund said men were complementary to women.
“We shouldn’t leave the men behind,” she said.
“Men work from the head, and women from the heart and we need both of them.”
Mrs Lund said there was a strong contingent of Catholic women joining the Ayr branch of the Catholic Women’s League, which has 130 members.
“It is dying in most of the parishes because a lot of women are working, but here we keep encouraging young women and we’ve got great young women,” she said.
“We push that financial membership makes the Christian voice stronger and every new president brings new members.”
Purchase a copy of The Catholic Leader at your local parish or subscribe to receive The Catholic Leader at your door or inbox every week.