A young fam­ily’s plan to beat the drought



WHEN LOUISE TURNER re­turns home driv­ing along the red stony road then cross­ing the bound­ary at Good­wood Sta­tion, 50 kilo­me­tres north of White Cliffs in NSW’S north-west, there’s a sense of calm and be­long­ing. Here amid the open shrubby wood­lands, flat-top mesas and ranges, Louise, 45, her hus­band Zane, 43, and their chil­dren Keeley, nine, and seven-year-old Clancy cur­rently run 3000 Dohne merino sheep on the 37,000-hectare prop­erty that bor­ders Pa­roodar­ling Na­tional Park. “I love driv­ing home; this is where my roots are and it’s the long­est I’ve ever lived in one place,” Louise ex­plains. “Our chil­dren are fourth gen­er­a­tion and we’ve made it our lit­tle fam­ily haven.” Louise grew up in Eng­land be­fore her fam­ily moved to Aus­tralia. She has moved 22 times through­out her life, fol­low­ing her fa­ther’s work as an es­ti­ma­tor/quan­tity sur­veyor. She em­braced outback life, work­ing in var­i­ous en­vi­ron­men­tal and com­mu­nity roles in­clud­ing Na­tional Parks, Green­ing Aus­tralia and the CWA (Coun­try Women’s As­so­ci­a­tion). “It’s im­por­tant to be con­nected to our com­mu­nity and I want to set an ex­am­ple to my chil­dren,” she says. “We all get busy, but if we take on roles within the com­mu­nity, we of­ten see the big­ger pic­ture and think out­side the square.” At Good­wood Sta­tion, Zane and Louise are in an un­re­lent­ing drought with only 85 mil­lime­tres of rain in the past 18 months — ac­cord­ing to Louise the an­nual av­er­age here is 250 mil­lime­tres. The cou­ple have largely de­stocked the prop­erty and much of Zane’s time in­volves feed­ing hay to their re­main­ing flock with the help of Keeley and Clancy af­ter their School of the Air cor­re­spon­dence lessons. “Try­ing to get bal­ance is hard with it be­ing so dry and hor­ri­ble,” says Louise. “I al­ways imag­ine what it’s like when we’ve had rain and that keeps me go­ing. We’ve still got our gar­den and while we have green lawn and trees, that helps.” Louise is the Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of West­ern Land­care NSW, which cov­ers 40 per cent of the state. She has worked with Land­care for more than 20 years. Her role in­cludes work­ing on pest man­age­ment and men­tor­ing youths in agri­cul­ture. At Good­wood Sta­tion, the Turn­ers are un­der­tak­ing an en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment project to learn more about soil and build fil­ters to slow wa­ter through the land­scape. “We’re try­ing to re­in­state wet­lands and de­crease the ero­sion with fenc­ing for a seed bank,” Zane says. “By col­lect­ing and pre­serv­ing seed in the re­serve, hope­fully over time they will self-re­gen­er­ate.” > For de­tails about Land­care, visit land­careaus­tralia.org.au

LOUISE My fam­ily were from Southend-on-sea in the south-east of Eng­land and we moved to Tam­worth, NSW in 1981, where Dad had a job, when I was seven. I’ve al­ways been an out­doors per­son and I wanted to work in the outback: I love the colours of the land­scape. I stud­ied Nat­u­ral and Cul­tural Her­itage Man­age­ment at the Univer­sity of Can­berra; I took a ranger job at Ti­booburra and was there for two years. I met Zane at the White Cliffs Gymkhana and Rodeo. I said to a friend, “I think I’m go­ing to marry that man.” We met up three weeks later and have been to­gether ever since. Zane and I work well, we both work hard and are grate­ful for what we have. He is a thor­ough re­searcher, but we make the de­ci­sions to­gether. We’ve been re­ally lucky, es­pe­cially to have two lit­tle mir­a­cle chil­dren. I work 15 hours each week as the Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of West­ern Land­care NSW and I have just been ap­pointed to the Land­care NSW Coun­cil. Land­care in west­ern NSW has re­ally blos­somed: nearly three years ago we had eight mem­ber groups, now we have 26. We help or­gan­ise train­ing, meet­ings and get the mes­sage out there that if we all work to­gether — with our minds and as well as our bod­ies — we can achieve so much more. In NSW, Land­care was given $15 mil­lion over three years [by the NSW State Govern­ment] and Land­care is es­ti­mated to put half a bil­lion dol­lars back into com­mu­nity. It’s an amaz­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion to be a part of. What sus­tains us is the fact that we are not the only ones in drought. Our stock needs us. Zane and I don’t make such a big thing of the drought in front of the kids, so I think they are used to things the way they are. They do hate see­ing an­i­mals that have dropped dead in the paddock like emus, which are drop­ping like flies, and we are shoot­ing kan­ga­roos [the State Govern­ment is al­low­ing this dur­ing the dry] who are com­pet­ing for feed with our sheep. We cope be­cause we have each other; we know there are peo­ple worse off than us. I help fundraise for School of the Air. We are also part of the White Cliffs com­mu­nity. We’re not just farm­ers — we’re a bit of ev­ery­thing. This shows our kids that there is more to life and that’s re­ally im­por­tant. >

ZANE Good­wood Sta­tion was orig­i­nally my grand­par­ents’ prop­erty and I grew up at Pol­pah, next door. I did School of the Air for some of my pri­mary school years, then moved to Vic­to­ria when I was 8 with my grand­par­ents, who re­tired there, and then I boarded in Mel­bourne. Af­ter school I worked sta­tion-hand jobs — mainly shear­ing and crutch­ing — then worked on gas pipe­lines in the mid-1990s. I met Lou in 1999 and took on the man­ager’s role at Fowlers Gap Arid Zone Re­search Sta­tion, which was a great learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence: it was run as a com­mer­cial sheep sta­tion. My aunt and un­cle wanted to re­tire from Good­wood Sta­tion so we moved back here in 2008, leased it for three years and then pur­chased it. We switched to Dohne sheep in 2011; they are eas­ier to care for with quite nice wool and they are suited to our coun­try. I like the peace and the quiet here and the free­dom to do your own thing. I don’t mind the iso­la­tion and it’s dif­fer­ent these days with School of the Air — it’s not as iso­lated as it was when I was young. The kids have the free­dom to ride mo­tor­bikes and drive cars and do things many other kids don’t get the chance to do. Our kids are in­volved wher­ever they can be and one good thing about School of the Air is that it’s more flex­i­ble now. Clancy fin­ishes a bit ear­lier than Keeley, he’s been quite handy dur­ing this dry time and comes out with me and drives the car while we feed the hay out. We’re about 30 to 40 per cent stocked at the mo­ment. Af­ter a long dry pe­riod like this it takes the coun­try a while to re­cover. We had to de­stock fairly dras­ti­cally and have been feed­ing fod­der for close to 12 months. We are do­ing a pro­gram with the help of West­ern Lo­cal Land Ser­vices to ad­dress the soil ero­sion and degra­da­tion on our place. We are fenc­ing for a seed bank and we’ve done some con­tour plough­ing and rip­ping to en­cour­age veg­e­ta­tion and cre­ate wet­lands. We plan on adding to it as we go and hope­fully slow soil ero­sion and de­gre­da­tion. I re­ally ad­mire Louise’s or­gan­i­sa­tional abil­ity, she’s very reg­i­mented. It gets a bit stress­ful at times like this when it’s so dry, but be­ing your own boss and the free­dom of it all is the big draw­card.

Louise and Zane Turner with daugh­ter Keeley, son Clancy, and kelpie, Midge at their heels, at Good­wood Sta­tion, their 37,000-hectare work­ing sheep sta­tion in White Cliffs, NSW.

CLOCK­WISE, FROM ABOVE Like much of the rest of the drought­de­clared state, Good­wood Sta­tion has hardly re­ceived any rain in nearly two years, with the land­scape arid, bare and dusty: part of the Turn­ers’ work­ing day goes into feed­ing hay to the re­main­ing Dohne sheep on the prop­erty; a quiet spot on the home­stead to ap­pre­ci­ate the green lawn; Louise tend­ing to a sheep. FAC­ING PAGE Louise, with one of the fam­ily’s four kelpies, Midge, dreams of days when the rain will come.

CLOCK­WISE, FROM ABOVE Zane bought the prop­erty, which in­cludes the shear­ing shed, from his fam­ily about seven years ago; Louise and Zane say their lives rep­re­sent far more than just farm­ing and they are grate­ful to be able to teach that to their two chil­dren, daugh­ter Keeley and son Clancy; inside the shear­ing shed; Keeley and Clancy with a lamb. FAC­ING PAGE Seven-year-old Clancy is a great help car­ing for their Dohne merino sheep and help­ing his Dad dis­trib­ute hay for feed.

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