Hello you slack a lot of shits. How are you going?
It can be a desolate and even dangerous landscape.
Help is often far away and hard to reach.
It's where Roadside Inns in the Northern Territory play a very different role to your average fuel stop.
As it often goes, the surrounds also tend to attract some larger-than-life characters.
Unique in a myriad of personality traits and skill set.
Laughter is the best medicine. Some people haven't got it in them but that's all right.
Greg Dick better known as 'Dickie'
has been here for 40 years.
There's few who don't know of this straight-talking
character who has a penchant for all things outlandish.
Love or loathe him, he doesn't really care either way.
I have a top time with tourists, yeah, really good.
Some don't know how to take me on what and it doesn't matter.
73 year old Dickie runs the Aileron Roadhouse,
which is roughly 200 kilometres north of Alice Springs.
It's an infatuation with this unique landscape that lured him north in the 60's.
Well, in the early parts, when I went to school, the Woman's Weekly was a very big paper.
It used to always have two pictures of Namatjira's paintings.
My mother used to show them to me and I'd say I'm going there one day, I'm going to go.
I love the country, just from those paintings.
It's an enduring love.
His tribute taking on a shrine like form.
He's collected more than 300 paintings from the famous Namatjira family.
I've been offered big money for them and things, but I won't, no way.
My sons will have a good time when I die.
He says the job isn't for everyone and requires some unusual assets.
So you're doing a bit of marriage counselling, everything?
Yeah, I've been a Parson for funerals.
At the last minute they said to me "We've got no..." I said where's the Preacher?
"We haven't got one, you'll have to do that old man."
So, I've done that for them several times.
You do everything, it is funny.
And you've delivered babies?
Yeah, delivered a baby in the kitchen in the early parts.
I tried to give one fella mouth-to-mouth to keep him alive. Blood all over my face and everything,
but he died right, there by that other table on the floor, early morning.
The things you come across at night.
It's been unreal.
Part of the struggle is working out ways to get people in the doors.
Some years ago, Dickie took the view public art was just the ticket.
You know, we talked about big statues and Mark wanted to make a name for himself.
And I said, Oh we'll put a big crucifix up there or something, you know.
A big cross, that'd be easy.
And we got talking about it and he says
What about a big Aboriginal warrior?
It was all built here, it's all hand done. The whole lot.
A few kilometres up the road at Dunmurra, a major military convoy has been passing through.
Hundreds of tankers and trucks have been stopping.
They've been so busy, the fuel has even run out.
Very busy, run out of diesel even, that's how busy we've been, yeah.
Are you gonna get re-stocked?
Yeah, tonight, it'll be turning up sometime between eight and nine o'clock tonight
and get a big drop and hopefully back in trade again tomorrow.
This place attracts all kinds.
Weary truck drivers. Wide-eyed travellers
and, of course, the station workers.
These ringers are making their way north for a
station get together and break.
We've already done nearly 600km today.
We left bright and early this morning and still another probably 500km to go.
Come up here for what, three nights and then turn around and drive back home
and get straight back into work again.
Yes, it's really iconic, good feed here too.
There's a lot of rodeos here in the Northern Territory that and I really look after their people
and all that sort of stuff, like you come in here and they're always welcoming
and they always make you feel like you're at home, pretty well.
Truckies too, rate this Roadhouse is one of the best in Australia.
How many pies do make a day mate?
Approximately one hundred, hundred and fifty.
He's open till about eleven, so if you get here like ten o'clock he'll cook you a feed.
So, there's not many places to do that.
And there's no telephones here.
Why do you like that?
Oh, yeah, you haven't got your boss ringing up to see where you are.
One aspect that largely goes unnoticed is the role these Roadhouse's play as first respondents.
When things go wrong, as they so often do on these vast highways and roads
it's the publican and staff that provide that critical first assistance.
And with it comes a share of trauma.
It's a burden this publican is also familiar with.
Well, with 292km from Katherine, people breaking down, you try to do things.
I've been to two fatality car accidents and numerous road accidents.
Top Springs is at the crossroads at the Territory's main stock routes.
Running the show is this the little lady, Pauline Haseldine
who emulates a Dolly Parton vibe, but can hold her own amongst even the toughest of ringers.
Yeah, well it gets a bit fiery sometimes.
I get a bit cranky with them and they know they know the rules.
Got rules set down and they break them, and it's the same with the young ringers.
It's not just about Indigenous, it is whoever.
Come and enjoy yourself but don't mess up.
She's the unofficial Mayor of the Victoria River district region.
Taking the job ten years ago, she now acts as a psychologist, judge and mediator.
Not just of the pub, but also in the nearby Indigenous community of Kalgaringi.
She says the key to solving most problems is often
simply offering up a listening ear.
Station managers have been really down and really depressed
and the best part about it is you get them to talk, you listen.
It's about helping people, you can't do any more than that.
The common theme out here seems to be lifelong service
and not shying away from the hard work that comes with running a Roadside Inn.
But like other Roadside managers, what keeps them here is pretty simple.
I don't know, I'm getting a bit damn old I think.
I'm 71. I don't know if it's time to retire
or they should kick me out and get someone new and fresh in.
But, it's not about kissing people's backsides.
It's about listening, talking to people, enjoying it.
And I still enjoy it. When I don't enjoy it, that's the time to go.
When I get to about 99 years
I reckon, because my coffins there.
I'm gonna die at a hundred.
When I get to 99 years, I might have a spare ten thousand.
I'll go out the start to have a good time and drop dead.
I've been changing my plans a bit.
That coffin is built out of the old Ghan railway line.
So, I said it's a bit heavy to carry, so I'd build a frame.
I'd get him to build a frame and a funeral pyre.
We'll have parties for three days while I burn away.
It's got something unique about it.
In the rocks, the colourings.
Every sunsets a different one.
Every sunrise.I never miss the sunrise or a sunset.