Sunday Territorian - - FRONTIER -

UP be­fore dawn and mus­ter­ing cat­tle un­der the scorch­ing Ter­ri­tory sun is all in a day’s work for the young jil­la­roos liv­ing and work­ing in the re­mote out­back.

But even though the days are long and the work is phys­i­cally de­mand­ing, 18-year-old Maddy Har­ley says there is nowhere in the world she would rather be than deep in cat­tle coun­try.

Af­ter spend­ing the ma­jor­ity of her child­hood on Won­doola Sta­tion, 130km south of Nor­man­ton, Maddy grew up watch­ing her mum and dad run­ning 23,000 head of Brah­man cat­tle in flat open downs in the Gulf Coun­try be­fore they moved to the NT.

“I was tiny but I have all these mem­o­ries of be­ing in the yards with my par­ents and just ab­so­lutely lov­ing life,” she says.

“There’s no doubt it ig­nited the pas­sion that I have now for the in­dus­try — even then I knew, deep down in my gut, that this is what I want to do, I want to work with cat­tle.

“They’ve got a mind of their own and they’re so in­tu­itive, which makes them easy and hard to work with at the same time.”

Now fin­ish­ing her Cer­tifi­cate III in Agri­cul­ture and Ru­ral Op­er­a­tions at Charles Dar­win Univer­sity’s Kather­ine Ru­ral Cam­pus, Maddy can’t wait to run a out­back sta­tion one day, just like her folks did when she was grow­ing up.

She has be­come a part of a ris­ing new wave of women tak­ing on pas­toral ap­pren­tice­ships in the North­ern Ter­ri­tory, which have risen by 54 per cent in a year.

It’s a re­flec­tion of the chang­ing role women have in the cat­tle in­dus­try, as more and more fe­males take on prac­ti­cal roles once re­served for men. “I think it’s a good thing be­cause times are chang­ing,” she said.

“There used to be so much stigma about women not be­ing able do what men can do, but we’re just as ca­pa­ble and there are a lot more op­por­tu­ni­ties now — we’re not just wives, cooks, gov­ernesses or clean­ers.

“The in­dus­try and tech­nol­ogy is evolv­ing so you it’s not just about brute strength any­more — you need to tech­ni­cal skills and be able to re­ally un­der­stand and build trust with your an­i­mals.”

Sit­ting on the top rail­ing of a cat­tle yard fence at the back of the CDU Kather­ine cam­pus, Maddy shares a hearty laugh with a few other fe­male ringers who are also fin­ish­ing off their full qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

As the dust set­tles, the girls are en­joy­ing a short break af­ter lead­ing the last of a herd of fe­male Brah­mans through the chutes to get checked for preg­nan­cies.

The mid­day sun is beat­ing down and Lily Maks, 22, lifts her hat to wipe the sweat from her fore­head.

Nor­mally thou­sands of kilo­me­tres away, this is a rare visit to town for Lily and her good mate An­nie Bow­man, 23.

They both work as con­trac­tors at Kirkim­bie Sta­tion, a 230,400ha prop­erty that runs 11,000 head of cat­tle in the south­ern Vic­to­ria River re­gion.

“Be­cause we’re con­trac­tors we travel out to a few dif­fer­ent sta­tions around the Ter­ri­tory when there’s work about,” she said.

“The head of cat­tle we’re work­ing with varies on each sta­tion but the av­er­age would be a cou­ple thou­sand.

“I love the sta­tion life­style and you be­come like a fam­ily of sorts be­cause you live and work to­gether and are hours away from your near­est neigh­bours.”

She said an av­er­age day for ringers like her started well be­fore day­break.

“When it’s time to muster we’re up early at about 4am, to get the horses ready or load up the quad bikes,” she said.

“Then we ride out to the pad­dock where the cat­tle are, lead them out and bring them in one big mob to the yards where they’re pro­cessed.

“We can walk them for 10-25km to get there, but it all de­pends on the size of the sta­tion.

“You get to see some big hori­zons out there work­ing the land but the heat is al­ways a chal­lenge es­pe­cially when you’re deal­ing with 39C days from Septem­ber to April and have to work from dawn til dark.

“It’s tough work so you’ve got to have the pas­sion for it and be ready to sweat it out.”

Orig­i­nally from a New Zealand, Eliz­a­beth Horne, 26, says the harsh weather con­di­tions are one of the most chal­leng­ing parts about work­ing on Ter­ri­tory sta­tions.

“This is my sec­ond year here but I grew up on a sheep and beef farm in New Zealand so it’s been a huge con­trast com­ing here,” she said.

“But over­all it’s been great. I’m glad I made this leap to come over be­cause I’ve been learn­ing so much, es­pe­cially from the train­ers here at CDU.”

Fiona Plun­kett is re­spon­si­ble for the CDU’s work­place trainee pro­gram, in the pas­toral and agri­cul­tural in­dus­try.

With the ma­jor­ity of their 200 stu­dents al­ready work­ing in 40 cat­tle sta­tions across the NT this year, her team of train­ers spends a lot of their time work­ing re­motely in dusty cat­tle yards.

“About 70 per cent of our ap­pren­tices here are women and a lot of them are from down south,” she says.

“You’ll only have about three per cent of stu­dents who are born and bred in the Ter­ri­tory.

“If you look around nearly ev­ery­one here is from some­where else, but they come to train in the Ter­ri­tory and wind up stay­ing.”

She says there has been a grad­ual but pro­found “holis­tic change” in the Ter­ri­tory pas­toral and agri­cul­tural in­dus­try with more women com­ing through the ranks.

“It’s not the rough and tough way that it used to be 50 years ago,” she says.

“I had a camp of nearly all girls dur­ing a muster this year and even though we don’t have the phys­i­cal power that the boys might have, you just have to work smarter.

“Things were def­i­nitely more male dom­i­nated be­fore.

“I guess the Ter­ri­tory was al­ways a bit fur­ther be­hind on this front be­cause of the NT’s larger scale, it’s far more re­mote and it’s got a lot harsher con­di­tions but like I said, we’re work­ing smarter now.”

Team leader Ali­son Haines agrees in­no­va­tions in techno- logy have helped boost roles for women in the in­dus­try.

“There’s a lot more go­ing on now, it’s not just chas­ing a cow or work­ing in the yards,” she says.

“There’s a lot more data jobs with the na­tional live­stock iden­ti­fi­ca­tion scheme, so there are these tech­ni­cal as­sis­tant roles in the pas­toral com­pa­nies now.

“So I en­cour­age all girls out there con­sid­er­ing a fu­ture in this in­dus­try to have a go be­cause it’s not out of reach at all.

“There are fe­male head stock­man, fe­male head man­agers and work­ing in those tech­ni­cal data po­si­tions in the NT and you could be the next one.”

Biloela ap­pren­tice Lily Maks

An­nie Bow­man, Eliz­a­beth Horne, Ann Bed­er­sen, Kayla Kurnof and Lily Maks

Kather­ine Vet Cares Hay­ley Jaenke

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