“I came over here in ‘83 with Mom and Dad; I think I was 18 or 19 then. I just finished my first-year pre-vocational trade course at Maleston and I didn’t have any work. I came over to KI for probably four or five months and then I had a job opportunity up in the Northern Territory as a Jackaroo working for Peter Sherwin, who took me under his wing and trained me up. Within a year, I was bore man overseer of 260 bores up there, with a few Jackaroos working underneath me, working for the wealthiest man in Australia at one point, and he taught me to believe in yourself and you can do it.
I’ve gone through a few tough times in my life, a lot of disappointment. Probably five years ago, I hit rock bottom. I couldn’t even afford to fill up my car with petrol to get from Kingscote back out home again. I had no money. I just realized, wow that’s scary. That was after I’ve just finished rebuilding my first gallery. There wasn’t much money left after that rebuild and tourism was a bit slow too. I just realized how vulnerable I was at that point. I had to delete a few people out of my life, and it was a good feeling and since then I’ve been happier, not concerned about that rubbish. I surround myself with better people. I got caught up in a rut and I had to hit rock bottom to learn that. Now I am happy with myself, even happy to be alone sometimes, but I have found the lovely Simone from Austria. One day, she walked into my gallery number two after the first fire and we just hit it off. She’s giving me a lot of confidence in who I am, what I can offer and where I am heading. She is just a positive pusher, she pushes herself pretty hard and pushes me hard. She brings out the better things in myself. I’m also a pretty proud father, pretty fortunate to have three sons and that they’re going well. They’re not asking me for money which is going a long way and what I have been teaching them. After losing the gallery again, I felt totally pissed off. I almost gave up again. I need to walk out to the road sometimes and just look at what Simone and me, Kate and Harry and a chap from New Zealand, Hammer, have achieved rebuilding all this. We have done a lot in 18 months and it’s almost finished, it’s been a big one and it’s very rewarding. It makes me feel proud. I’ve surprised myself a lot with what I’ve done. It’s a great spot in the middle of the island and I’ve just learned to turn a negative into a positive. A friend of mine said to me one night after the big fire, ‘whatever you do, Jonny, never give in.’ So, I never have. You might as well keep going, I think I proved that.”
If you would like to follow Jonny or support him, his Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/roolagoonhomestead