Legendary former Aussie test cricketer, Matthew Hayden, tells all about his Top End family travels.
rom Uluru to Alice Springs, Katherine
to Darwin, and all places in between,
the family stayed at roadside retreats,
five-star hotels and even a working
cattle station, which Matt says was “a
great thing for his kids to experience”. Camping
in remote Daly Waters provided another
highlight for the family. “We camped out by the
Daly Waters Pub, one of the great iconic – and
laconic – pubs of Australia. The kids played
rock bowls in the street as we listened to
country music. The whole campsite and
community seemed to descend and there was
such a great atmosphere.”
Making connections with the local
Indigenous communities made a huge impact
on the Hayden family. “In Katherine the kids
learnt to make fire with Top Didj and
there was a spear-throwing
competition. My daughter, who is a
state javelin champ, was all over that.
“Uluru in general was very special for the
kids,” says Matt who compares the sacred
experience of Uluru and its millennia of history
to that of any great church or temple.
“You can get lost in that space on your own
journey. Grace, Joshy and Tom all had a
different take away of what it felt like for them.”
A traditional cook-up with the Bininj/
Mungguy people at The Warradjan Cultural
Centre in Kakadu National Park certainly made
an impression on the Haydens.
“We were every much in their hands. And we
learnt as a family that around here men do
men’s things and women do women’s things.”
For Matt and his sons that meant helping to
prepare and cook buffalo, wrapped in paper
bark and buried in a fire pit, while the girls
made bracelets and grass bags.
“It was sensational. Any day the boys get a
chance to light a fire is a good day. And the size of this big backstrap of buffalo would have made Fred Flimstone Proud.
“The greatest gift
of a trip like this is
time just to be able
to travel across as
a family and be
“Being a bush kid myself, I’m big on trying
different things, and along the way the kids
tasted crocodile, emu and kangaroo. They
didn’t even screw their noses up at a camel
burger,” he says with pride.
The Haydens found it easy to keep the kids
entertained on the long drives. “They enjoyed
the car trips, just looking out the window and
spotting stuff. And there is always a little
waterhole or natural springs like the ones at
Mataranka, so we’d drive for a few hours and
then stop to cool off, relax and have a bite.
“The greatest gift of a trip like this is time just
to be able to travel across Australia as a family
and be together. It’s therapeutic.”
But beyond quality family time, Matt felt his
children came away with so much more from
their Top End adventures.
“They’ve seen first-hand the way of life of the
Indigenous people and the impact of the
extreme isolation of outback communities.
There is no question that my family now has a
deeper understanding and respect for the
desert and its Indigenous peoples, as well as a
greater appreciation of just how big and remote
Australia really is.”
Rim Walk, Kings Canyon © Andrew Jackson
Flights to and from Darwin, Alice Springs, and Uluru are available from most capital cities.
This article appeared in volume 52 of Holidays with Kids magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.