A heart-breaking tribute to the late Brent Acton
Passionate pilot and farmer taken too soon
HE WAS a country boy nicknamed ‘Scary’ and she, a bright-eyed girl on a new adventure in the Kimberly.
Both from different worlds, but both hated school and left the classroom young, on the lookout for station work in the top end of Australia.
Little did the two know they would cross paths and share a life together, one which would be tragically cut short.
Brent and Shona Acton had a full life together but sadly Brent was suddenly killed in a helicopter accident near Cloncurry last month.
The 40-year-old father of two died when his helicopter crashed into a paddock on Lanark Property, about 20km north of Cloncurry, and burst into flames on the morning of August 2.
Mr Acton, a member of the Acton Super Beef family dynasty, is survived by wife Shona and two young sons, Ned, 11, and Robert, 6.
Brent Robert Thomas Acton was born in Rockhampton on October 25, 1976.
Brent was the oldest of three children for Robert and Janette Acton and grew up on his family cattle property, Wieta, about three hours north of Rockhampton.
When it was time, Brent headed off to board at Toowoomba Grammar School.
However at the end of Year 10, his parents realised school wasn’t for him.
The decision was made for him to attend Emerald Ag College. Brent thoroughly enjoyed it, and it gave him a real direction to follow.
With this in mind, Brent headed off to the top end of Australia, and worked on various large cattle stations.
This is where he met the love of his life.
Brent and Shona Acton first met at a country race at Timber Creek in the Northern Territory.
Shona was set to start work at Rosewood Station and met with the manager at the races to start her new job.
The manager pointed her in the direction of Brent and said “he’ll give you a lift back to the station, his name is Scary”.
Shona made her way to this young man, with a long blonde mullet which sat just at his shoulders.
She soon found out how Brent earned the nickname Scary – he would often sit on the outskirts of the circle, as a deep thinker with not much to say.
On rare occasions he would step in and say something, taking everyone by surprise.
On the following day, it was time to head back to the station. Shona went to get into the back of the Brent’s Hilux, and he said, “I suppose you can get in the front”.
“During the trip back, after a big day at the races I fell asleep in his lap and woke up with dribble all down my chin. This was the start to our friendship,” Shona said.
During the two years the pair worked at Rosewood, Shona camped out in the stock camp while Brent was in the weaner camp at the homestead.
“He would pursue our relationship by driving 40km most nights to visit me,” Shona said.
“After finishing at Rosewood in 1999, we moved back to Queensland together to Brent’s family property, Retreat Station at Wandoan.”
When they returned home, Brent’s father, Robert, said he
had a fence that he needed to be built if Shona and Brent wanted to give it a crack.
So the pair gave it the best they could and on completion of the fence a neighbour, Bill Speed, impressed by the quality, asked if they could do some fencing for him.
After several more jobs, Brent’s dad said if the pair were going to continue fencing they needed to buy their own gear.
They brought a Toyota, tractor, trailer and a second-hand fridge.
But because Brent loved a bargain the pair often had to take the fridge for a drive to get the gas going again.
“For Brent, shopping was a mathematical process. Those who know Brent well knew that he loved a good bargain.”
Shona said he never lost his nose for a bargain, with it more recently shining through at Kmart in Mt Isa.
“He found some thongs that were labelled on sale for $2 a pair, which Brent was very impressed by,” she said.
“When he went to the counter to pay, the lady scanned the ticket and they were actually 50 cents, so you could imagine Brent’s face.
“So he went back and got all the thongs available, getting seven pairs for just $6.50. He now had a pair for stepping out, going to the pub, for work, for welding and so on. He was so impressed.”
Over the years the couple’s passion for contract fencing took them far and wide, from places such as Wandoan and Taroom, to Roma, St George, Surat and Bollon.
It was also during this time Brent completed his fixed wing licence and then his helicopter licence.
“With such a big investment, I questioned whether he would pursue a career in flying or make it a hobby, as I was aware the ridiculousness of spending $50,000 on a hobby was like me spending the money on clothes,” she said.
Brent’s response was he just needed a bit more money behind him as he knew his first flying job wouldn’t pay much, so he put an ad in the paper for fencing work.
After four years together, Brent finally popped the question to Shona.
Brent was determined to pay for the wedding outright, so after three years of hard work the couple was married in Noosa on February 28, 2004.
The pair eventually settled in Middlemount, where Shona worked in the mines as a machine operator while Brent continued fencing.
“By June 2004, we had security in the form of a house in Middlemont and Brent was comfortable to move to Cloncurry to start as a mustering pilot with Cloncurry Mustering Company,” she said.
Shona followed Brent to Cloncurry in Christmas 2004, where they purchased the cheapest house available.
Brent continued to prove himself as a valued pilot, and bought into Cloncurry Mustering Company.
Over the next 13 years, he became a senior pilot and logged more than 10,000 flying hours. Not only was he sought after for his expertise, he was highly respected by his peers, and Brent felt a sense of achievement.
“Brent and I went on to call Cloncurry home, having our first child Ned James Acton in 2006 in Mt Isa, and completing our family with Robert Wesley Acton born in Toowoomba in 2011,” Shona said.
“Brent was the proudest dad ever, and so content with his two beautiful sons by his side.”
SORELY MISSED: Brent Acton was tragically killed in a helicopter crash last month. His family remember him as a hard worker, a dedicated dad and a passionate pilot.
FAMILY TIME: Brent adored his two sons Ned and Robert.
PERFECT COUPLE: Brent Acton pictured with his loving wife Shona. The couple met in the Northern Territory in 1997 and shared a passion for rural life.