After our plans for a trip to the Darling Basin in April this year were quashed due to the drought, Rod and Janene Goff (Q+ owners) and Lindy and myself decided to hit Central Queensland. With the continuing drought in the west and the floods in the north we decided that there would be families in need so what better time to contact Rosie, the co-ordinator for Outback Helpers www.outbackhelpersscheme.com.
We had heard of this community service through Lindy’s sister and brother-in-law, Peter and Sue Byrne (Quantum owners) who had helped a family last December near Augathella. They were telling us how rewarding it was to help a family in need.
We contacted Rosie, and the four of us registered our interest. Outback Helpers require you to fill out a form listing your skills and what you expect from the owners…whether you require accommodation and meals or just accomodation or if you are completely self contained.
Shortly after registering she called me and said there was a young couple with a 12 month old baby needing some extra hands on their property, south of Mitchell.
She sent me their contact details and we were able to deal directly with the owners, which is lovely because you get a feel for the family and the property before you even leave home.
Whilst we said we were self sufficient, Doll and Dave, the owners, mentioned that they had a ‘cottage’ that we could camp close to for toilets, shower, power and a fridge which was fabulous. Whilst we provided our own meals, the long hot shower at the end of the day was priceless. As for our skills, well Rod is a great handyman in so many ways and Janene is a country girl from the land, so they both had half an idea of what they could contribute whereas Lindy and I didn’t bring much to the table except our willingness to work hard as labourers.
The property is 83,000 acres running around 1,500 head of cattle. They were able to run the farm themselves until their son was born which restricted Doll from doing her daily duties. Dave also runs an earthmoving business to help subsidise the property, which means he is away for long periods of time.
For Doll, this means she is left with the daily duties which include feeding poddy calves, looking after the working dogs, driving an hour round trip to turn on bores, mending fences, and generally keeping the farm running. She is an amazing woman but even she requires assistance as their child grows.
Once we were settled, Doll showed us a map of the property and then drove us around the paddocks where we would be working. With the baby on her hip Doll gave us fencing lessons along the way and explained what work she thought we could assist them with. We were given a 4WD truck and 2 motorbikes to use for our tour of duty. Lucky for us Rod could drive a tractor and forklift , which was most valuable for some of our larger duties. While we worked as a team to start with, as we became more familiar with the work we were able to split into 2 teams which enabled us to work more efficiently.
Our main priorities were to make sure the cattle troughs were always full of water, to drive molasses and Lick (a dry supplement for cattle) out to paddocks, mend fences, feed poddy calves and working dogs and to not get lost while we were doing it! Once we had completed the daily tasks we were able to start on Doll’s other priority which was her garden. These tasks included relocating sheds, pulling down trees, dismantling and taking away old sheds and giving the garden a good tidy up. Having a lawn and garden of your own is so important to farmers (if water permits); it’s a little oasis that is away from the dirt and dust of the property and it was the place that we would all congregate after a long day. Doll would meet us in the garden with a cold beer and a bottle of wine, which became part of our daily routine.
We had originally planned to work for seven days but Doll asked if there would be any chance of us staying a bit longer so they could attend a wedding in Melbourne. Of course we said yes so the four of us became overnight owners of an 83,000 acre cattle farm, haha! The four days alone were very big days, as we wanted to be able to finish off all our jobs before they got back and to make sure nothing went wrong on our watch.
We were told in no uncertain terms that we were to do only how much we wanted to, and to have a day off when we wanted and to keep our own hours. Whilst we appreciated her concerns for our wellbeing we said bugger that, we were out here to work and make a difference.
We worked non-stop for 10 days and loved every minute of our stay.
Seeing Doll and Dave’s faces when they come home and realised what we had accomplished around the farm and homestead was wonderful. It made all the hard work worthwhile.
We finally left our new outback family knowing we did make a difference to their lives and their home. The four of us worked so well together which I think added to the fun and made the long hot days so much easier. We can all hold our hand on our heart knowing we gave our best and feel so rewarded for this unique experience.
We’ve always had a huge appreciation for our farmers but living in that environment for 10 days and seeing what it takes to run a cattle property of this size left us speechless.
We will definitely contact Rosie and Outback Helpers again when we plan our next trip. We may only be able to offer a few days next time, who knows, but every day we work is a day less that the farmers have to do and you feel so good giving back to the people who are the backbone of this great land.