Cherie von Hӧrchner took her career to new heights in Broken Hill.
As an ABC Rural Reporter based in Broken Hill, Cherie von Hӧrchner’s mission is to tell the stories that don’t often get told. Now she’s taken to the air to help her fulfil that mission.
Cherie’s job had already taken her almost right around the country when the call came asking if she’d swap her wanderlust for a permanent role in Broken Hill. As someone who’d grown up in the country, and clearly carries a passion for new challenges, the offer was too compelling to resist.
“The more I investigated Broken Hill, the more it gave me a good sense of where I was going,” she says, with journalistic instincts fully intact. “I knew I was going to a small mining town in the middle of nowhere – that’s how it was described to me. But then when I got here, it was different again. When I was first flying into Broken Hill, I looked down and I was so excited – just thinking: ‘What am I going to find here?’ I couldn’t wait to get in there and embrace the town.”
Three years later, Cherie is adamant that she made the right decision, and her love for the town is infectious. “I came here with open eyes to experience whatever comes along, but it’s like when you fall in love – you don’t know why you’ve fallen in love. You know some of the obvious reasons, but there’s this je ne sais quoi quality as well. For me Broken Hill is a bit like that; there’s something about this place that I’ve fallen in love with, and I can’t help but want to stay.”
There’s one place more than any other that Cherie is smitten with – the airport. “You’ll find me there often. If you’re into aircraft and flying, going out there is exciting – an RAF plane might come through, the Rural Fire Services helicopter they use for water bombing might come through, or somebody that’s travelling around the country might just stop to fill up.”
Her love of flying is inherited from her grandfather. A fighter pilot in the Dutch Air Force in World War II, he came to Australia as part of the Allies’ support force and flew raids out of the Northern Territory into the Pacific. He was later sent to America, where, Cherie notes, he learned how “to be a fighter pilot, to be a bombardier, to be a navigator, to be a gunner – to have all those qualifications for the air”.
These experiences therefore sat in the back of Cherie’s head from a very early age, but she never genuinely considered that she’d ever have the chance to learn how to fly. But her arrival in Broken Hill uncovered the vital role that aircraft play in the life-cycle of rural and regional Australia. “You can’t go a day without hearing planes flying, and when you look at that blue sky out there, you want to be up there. That is when I thought: ‘This is it, I need to do it.’”
With her pilot’s licence now in hand, Cherie has the opportunity to double-down on her dream job, and literally broaden her horizons in her continuing quest to “tell the stories that aren’t told very often” from rural and remote Australia. It seems like no stretch at all when Cherie reveals that she genuinely feels like a frontier explorer.
“One of the great opportunities of Broken Hill is that you can quickly drive out of town and you’re suddenly in the middle of nothing. It’s basically just arid land and you and the animals. It’s so different to city life; you’re not stopping at traffic lights and watching traffic jams, but you are watching out for kangaroos, emus, goats, eagles, feral pigs.
“You just don’t often get that opportunity, to live in a place where every day you’re tapping into the romantic idea of being an explorer, and that’s how it is out here.”