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Swapping the Big Smoke for Island Life

Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School teacher Hannah Cantwell shares her experience swapping her big city life in Melbourne for a slower-paced existence on Thursday Island – and the career opportunities that came with it! 

Why did you move from Melbourne to Waiben (Thursday Island)?

I loved my school in Melbourne, but I was looking for something more. While I had a very diverse range of cultures in my classes, I didn’t have the opportunity to teach First Nations students in the school I was at. I also felt that I needed to have more professional learning in embedding First Nations’ perspectives in the classroom so I began thinking about moving to a community that would support this. I also have a huge love for travel and thought this could be a great way to experience a different part of Australia. Around this time, I had a friend who had previously spent six months teaching on Boigu and told me she had thought about moving back to the Torres Strait and if I would consider moving with her. I looked at the Catholic Education website, saw a job advertised for Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School (OLSH) and ended up applying.  

Hannah moved to Thursday Island to learn more about embedding First Nations’ perspectives in the classroom.

What are the best things about living and teaching on Thursday Island?

The people are definitely the best thing about living up here. My family joke that I’m more social here than I was in Melbourne. While there isn’t as much to do in terms of attractions, there always seems to be something to do. When I first moved up, I was very much a city girl. Now I love being on the water and I’ve just started getting into camping and the next step is fishing. The waterfalls in the wet season is always a highlight. I’m also often on Horn Island visiting friends and there’s some beautiful beaches there. 

I was driving 30-45 minutes every day to work in Melbourne down the Monash. Now it’s an 11-minute walk or a three-minute drive. Moving up here was a big shock to the system in terms of climate as I moved during the wet season when it was very hot and humid. I’ve now adjusted and I quite like not having to dress in layers for the unpredictable Melbourne weather.  

Hannah and her students at OLSH.

How were you supported by Cairns Catholic Education and OLSH?

When I first came up I had an induction at the Catholic Education offices in Cairns with my Principal Majella and another new teacher. During this time we went through a lot of the general information I would need to know as part of working at Sacred Heart and with the Cairns Diocese. We also met quite a few people who we would be working with through the Diocese. I feel like I’ve been very well supported by the people at the school during my time here. Everybody is always willing to help out and give advice as needed. 

Moving up during 2020 was an interesting time as many community events were cancelled, so it was really only in 2021 that I’ve been able to experience a real sense of community on TI. The community have always been welcoming, but last year has been great as I’ve been to events like the cultural festival and footy carnivals. As a school we’ve been able to connect more with the community through our school’s NAIDOC and Feast Day celebrations.  

Would you recommend other teachers consider moving to remote locations such as Thursday Island?

I would absolutely encourage anybody thinking about a move to remote location to just take the leap. It has been the best decision I have ever made! 

To find out more about employment opportunities in Far North Queensland, view our Current Positions.