Scott Jones in one of a number of young people who live and work in remote Innamincka. (ABC News: Gary-Jon Lysaght)
Moving to one of the most remote communities in Australia might not be for everyone, but it provides special opportunities for those who do.
For some, the lure of camaraderie, a unique experience, and the opportunity to travel are big enough drawcards.
The Innamincka Hotel, an iconic pub in far north-east South Australia has 12 staff during the tourist season, most of them under the age of 30.
Innamincka is more than 1,000 kilometres from Adelaide, along the unsealed Strzelecki Track. (ABC News: Gary-Jon Lysaght)
Innamincka is more than 1,000 kilometres from Adelaide, more than half of which is spent on the unsealed Strzelecki Track.
“Coming here is when you realise just how far away it is — that was challenging, to say the least,” said Innamincka Hotel employee Scott Jones, who is from Newcastle.
He said living in the remote town had given him unique opportunities including the chance to save money for travel.
“You get to see Australia, which is what I wanted to do — the more I went overseas, the more I realised I hadn’t seen much of Australia.”
Another employee at the Innamincka Hotel, Louise Murray, is from Roxby Downs, a town near the BHP-owned Olympic Dam mine in central South Australia.
Louise Murray says moving to Innamincka has given her valuable experience in hospitality. (ABC News: Gary-Jon Lysaght)
“If you want a career in hospitality, you just can’t get past what you’ll experience out here,” she said.
“Country people are different to city people — you’re not going to make cocktails out here — if you pour a beer wrong, they’re going to tell you.
“Out here, we don’t have any police officers, the closest one is Thargomindah, which is four hours away, so you’ve got to learn how to handle yourself.
“If things kick off, you’ve got to be able to jump in there and sort it out.”
Lure of the outback
Innamincka was founded in the 1890s before being abandoned in the 1950s because of severe drought.
Oil and gas exploration helped restore the town in the 1970s.
Today, it is a hotspot for tourists who come to see the nearby Cooper Creek and the grave sites of Robert O’Hara Burke and William Wills.
Burke and Wills died at the Cooper Creek in their failed attempt to cross Australia from south to north. (ABC News: Gary-Jon Lysaght)
Burke and Wills were explorers who died near the town in their failed attempt to cross the continent.
Nichelle Hodgson is the licensee at the Innamincka Hotel, which has been operating since 1871.
She moved to the remote town from Wagga Wagga in New South Wales after her partner started working as a tour guide on the Cooper Creek.
“Before I came out here, I didn’t know what to expect,” she said.
“I looked at my phone, saw ‘no service’ and I cried for half an hour — but now I couldn’t care less if I had my mobile phone or not.”
“We have people who come back for annual holidays and, over the six years, we’ve made life-long friends.”
Ms Hodgson said the young staff members, who were contracted for six to eight months, received a variety of skills they wouldn’t get elsewhere.
Nichelle Hodgson moved to Innamincka six years ago with her partner, before becoming the licensee in 2016. (ABC News: Gary-Jon Lysaght)
“It’s good to see that they’re enthusiastic and willing to get in and do whatever’s asked of them,” she said.
“They’re good and happy to have around.”
Out on a station
Cordillo Downs is a cattle station north of Innamincka, on the border with Queensland.
Rachael Dickie is a backpacker from England, spending three months at Cordillo Downs Station. (ABC News: Patrick Martin)
Rachael Dickie is an English backpacker spending three months with her partner, Donald, as a chef at the remote station.
The two travelled to Cordillo Downs in an RV, driving along hundreds of kilometres of rough dirt roads.
“We heard a few horror stories about fruit picking, so we thought we’d try something a bit different,” she said.
“It’s a totally different way of life and really interesting to see how it works, living in the middle of the desert.”