About Me

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I am 7th Generation in the Australian Cattle Industry. I grew up on a cattle station in North Queensland. My husband and I run a Livestock Agency (hence the reference to mobile phones)as well as a small hobby farm with our two young children.

Blog Archive

Saturday, 27 August 2011

"My Story"

I wrote "My Story" just after the Suspension of the Live Export Trade in Australia.  At the time there was a lot of "farmer bashing" going on, saying that the farmers of the north didn't deserve a livelihood if we relied on Live Export, we deserved to go bankrupt, we were cruel and lots of very awful and un-true things.  Thankfully things are slowly settling down, and most people are realising that at the moment there is no other option for cattle producers in the north of Australia (although there are still some out there who disagree).

My Story.

About 14 years ago, my high school geography teacher planted a little seed of anger in my head about people’s preconceptions of the rural industry when he told our class that “graziers were the bane of this earth.”  That seed lay dormant for a while, until last year, it started to shoot when the Bligh Government labeled producers as “environmental vandals.”  Now it is positively blooming with the fall out of the Live Export Issue.

 I believe we are fighting for much more than to be able to market our cattle. We are fighting for the education of and acknowledgement and understanding from our city neighbours that we are not rich hill billies, stupid or backwards or cruel. That we do not rape and pillage the earth, that we love and cherish the land we work on and the livestock we produce.

We are fighting for respect because we too are hard working people and pay our taxes. That we do our best to provide our nation and the world first-class produce. Despite the "hardships" of isolation, distance, Mother Nature and above all constant criticism. And we do it with pride.

This is my story:

My dad left home when he was 14 to go ringing and droving.  He worked extremely hard, finally gaining his own property after years of working in the mines, and stock work on the side.  We have grown up with the stories of  mickies, rodeos, good dogs, freezing mornings and aboriginal stockmen just to name a few.  He is an extremely hard working man, so caring and compassionate to others, always ready to help anyone in need and always with a smile and a joke.  My brother is just like him.

My mum’s family managed “Banchory” between Clermont and Alpha for the best part of 40 years.  Mum worked as a nurse in the Clermont Hospital before marrying Dad and moving out to the station he was working on.  My mother is the salt of the earth, the rock of our family and I once heard her described as ruling with an iron fist in a velvet glove.  My sister’s the same, I hope I can be too.

In 1990 we moved to a station on the Burdekin Dam when I was 9.  It was full of cleanskins and run down fences, that’s when I learnt what it meant to be a rural Australian.  By 1993 we were in the grip of a severe drought.  The days became a blur of keeping crows from pecking poddie’s eyes out, hundreds of weaners needing to be fed hundreds of bales of hay, dry dams (including the house supply), mixing lick, dead and dying cattle.  There were whispers of men committing suicide from the feeling of sheer hopelessness.   My hands were so rough and calloused from lugging hay bales, I’m surprised I could lift them, I was so tiny.  I used to only do a couple of hours of school a day through a School of Distance Education. I did a lot at night too just to free up my days to be a part of things.  I remember my dad’s usually sparkly eyes being so dull with despair as we were carting water, and him saying to me “A man just feels so useless”. 

They always say the darkest hour is before dawn.  Between Christmas and New Year in ’93 we had a couple of inches of rain and our hopes were raised.  Everything turned green, but not from the grass.  We had a plague of caterpillars that ate all the leaves off the trees.  Then the heat wave struck.  We were in town the in the first day of crippling heat.  We came home to find dead chooks and one of our bitches had killed all but one of her pups trying to keep them cool.  Dad did a lick and water run the next day, he took for ever to come home, we started to worry.  Throughout the morning birds such as kookaburras and tawny frogmouths found their way into the house, seeking out the cool of the cement floor, so exhausted from the heat they let us pick them up to wet them.  Dad finally came home, every time he pulled up, birds flew under the car for the shade as there were no leaves left on the trees.  He told us how he tried to wet the dirt down to give them some relief.  It’s men like this that activists have labeled barbaric.

Throughout this time my mum, was just like every other rural woman.  Stoic, supportive, extremely hard working and never showed her tears, although surely there were many when nobody was looking.  I have no doubt that it was her, like every other rural woman, that held things together.  It’s women like this that activists have said don’t deserve Australia’s support

After New Year it was time to go to Boarding School, I knew I was lucky to go and I really don’t know where the money came from.  I also didn’t want to go, who would have the time to keep the crows off the poddies?  As Mum and Dad dropped me off, the heavens finally opened up.  My parents more or less dropped me and ran, like so many other parents.   I had mixed feelings that day, elation that the drought had broken, sadness because I wouldn’t see “my” place coming back to life. I went home for a weekend a few weeks later and the change was amazing.  As I lay in my bed that night, I could hear an eerie noise.  It became louder and louder and all I could think of was a story an Indigenous dorm mate told me about Kadatchi Man.  As I lay in my bed in the dark listening to the shrieks getting louder, I couldn’t bear it anymore and ran to my parents’ room.  At 13 years old, I had forgotten what the sound of frogs rejoicing in the running creek sounded like.  It’s children like this who activists have said don’t deserve a future.

I’m grown up now, with two small children of my own.  My husband has worked so hard and we’ve sacrificed so much, this year we were finally living the dream.  We have our own company, totally reliant on the cattle industry, doing what he’s always wanted to do, and he’s damn good at it.  Now he’s losing hope and talking about going to the mines.  It’s people like us activists have said don’t deserve a livelihood.

So that’s my story, there are so many  others out there, many much more heart breaking than this and if the ban on live export continues, there will be thousands more.  They will be stories of despair, heartbreak, death, bankruptcy and loss. They will be stories of people who have been forsaken by their nation.

Just like us, everyone in the cattle industry has invested so much blood sweat, and tears into what they do.  We have worked at it for generations, through flood, fire, drought and cyclones.  Through accidents, death and illness when your only medical help is a Flying Doctors Medical Chest and their doctor on the other end of the radio or phone if you were lucky enough to have one.  Past generations have kept their head down, and tried to stay out of trouble.  They went about their immense work load quietly. 

Well not any more!  It’s time that rural Australia stands up and be heard!  And be heard we will.  We are sick and tired of being pushed around and we will not go down without a fight. Because we are fighting for our past and we are fighting for our future.  We are so damn proud of who we are, and you can never, NEVER, take our pride.

This is what it looked like after the caterpillars came through and ate all of the foliage off the trees.  We sold the place 5 years and many good seasons later and most of the trees never grew back.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


Soooo, the kids go and let the chooks out of the pen yesterday afternoon and came flying back to tell me gleefully that one was dead. Yuck, and of course Shane wasn't going to be home until after dark so I had to deal with it. YUCK. So, I went down to the pen on the 4 wheeler with and old cloth nappy (thanks to the cotton farmers who grew the cotton to keep my babies bums covered and now the nappies make the best rags out) to dispose of the corpse. It was stiff. YUCK. So I wrap the nappy around the chooks leg and pick it up and eewww gross, it legs went crackcrackcrickcrackcrrriiiiiicccckkkkkkkk. YUCK!!!!! gah yuck. Put it on the back of the bike and went up the paddock and hoiked the bloody thing into the long grass. Only bought the bloody thing on Friday so that was a waste of $25!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Land of "Nothing".

About 13 years ago, half way through Grade 12, I was faced with the decision of "what to do next".  Uni was definitely out of the question, I was flat out handling boarding school.  Office jobs didn't appeal to me.  I wanted to head west, preferably as far as the Northern Territory.  But to do what? Even though I grew up on a cattle station in North Queensland I didn't think I'd cope with being a jillaroo, cattle and horses scared the beejeezus outta me if they got too close.  But I adored kids, yes that was the answer!  So I started pouring through the Queensland Country Life Classifieds answering any ad for a govie.

So the call finally came.  I was offered a job!  In the Northern Territory!  It was for the position of Governess on Gallipoli, an outstation of Alexandria. Alexandria at 1 611 800 hectares, runs approximately 55 000 head of cattle and employing well over 50 people,  making it one of the largest stations in the Southern Hemisphere.  The employees on the place were mainly young men aged between 17 and 20 (much to my father's consternation).  Gallipoli Homestead was about 150km North East of Cammooweal on the QLD/NT Border.  Access by mail plane only during the wet season..

I had a few setbacks before getting there.  A Live Export cattle boat was heading to Townsville (they can come with very little notice) and my father had a broken leg. So it was all hands (or feet) on deck for the rest of the family for the mustering and drafting of cattle to send on the boat.  I still remember my father standing (on crutches of course) in the middle of the yards issuing orders (as father's are wont to do) when a steer broke free of the mob and came at Dad. I can still remember my mother's horror and my brother's mirth as Dad was trying to balance on one leg and whack the steer with his crutches.  Then I had a suspected case of appendicitis which put me back another few days!

So I finally got driven to town to board the Greyhound Bus to arrive in Mt Isa at 7am the next morning, where the pilot of the mail plane would pick me up and fly me to Gallipoli.  But then the bus had to go and get a flat tyre between Julia Creek and Cloncurry setting us back over an hour.  OMG!  Was I going to miss the mail plane?  Or even worse hold it up so it would be late?  So after a few frantic phone calls from the public phone in Cloncurry,it was all sorted, the pilot didn't mind waiting.

So I get to Mt Isa, I'm halfway through the journey.  Next hurdle: The Plane.  I'd never been on a plane and I got carsick.  The Plane wasn't looking good.  Especially a small Cessna in the Northern Territory Summer.  It wasn't pretty.  We had to fly via Soudan (the other outstation), and Alexandria first.  The Big Boss's Personal Assistant (aka his wife, but she once said the term wife just didn't cut it when she thought of everything she did for him), sat me at her kitchen table and poured sympathy on me.  I still remember her kindness to this day.  Back in the plane for the final leg and I'm sure I didn't open my eyes for the rest of the way and my mantra was "it's just like the car, it's just like the car".  Finally the pilot taps me on the shoulder and points to a homestead shining in the distance!  HURRAH!  After a couple of goes, he lands the awful metal box and taxis down to a waiting Land Cruiser which held the Overseer, his two kids and a young fella.

I stumble down the steps, blinking in the harsh sunlight and stagger towards the vehicle to meet everyone.  The young fella was Shane, quite a strapping lad and all I could think was "please God don't let me spew on his boots".  I'm thankful to say God listened to me that time.  It turns out the overseer was asking Shane "what's she like".  He told me later that he answered "she looks beautiful."  Turns out he really said "Yeah, I'd have a lap at 'er."

A few days later after I'd recovered Shane took me for a drive to check on a bore 3 HOURS AWAY!  That's how big the place was.  By then I'd gotten over the shock and was taking a keen interest in my surroundings. It was like I was in another world.  Coming from the banks of the Burdekin River with an abundance of hills, trees and wide sandy creeks, I found I was in the land of nothing.  No trees, no hills and no creeks.  Just a brilliant blue sky and brown waving grass for as far as you can see.  You could literally see the curve of the earth on the horizon.  I half expected to see American Bisons galloping along side the car.

But it didn't take me long to realise the beauty of this land.  In stark contrast to the brown and blue were the brilliant colours of the budgerigars wheeling across the great expanse of sky in their tweeting flocks.  The sky, an endless blue during the day exploded into a thousand different hues at sunrise and sunset.  I have never felt so insignificant in the whole scheme of things as I did as I stood on the open plains in that land of "nothing".

Gallipoli Station holds so many memories for me, mostly good.  The night after Shane took me for that drive we had a "party".  Drinking rum and coke out of two litre jugs and dancing to the Forrest Gump soundtrack doesn't sound so romantic, but something was in the air that night, apart from the millions of stars in that huge sky.  Shane got his "lap" at me all right, we are still together nearly 13 years and 2 children later.  That land of "nothing" still has a very special place in my heart.