Worldy ex­pe­ri­ences for Mar­lee Sta­tion fam­ily

The Western Star - - RU­RAL WEEKLY - Candyce.braith­[email protected] CANDYCE BRAITH­WAITE

AN­NUAL rain­fall at the Blacket’s cat­tle prop­erty near Mitchell is around 18 inches.

A small amount they’ve come nowhere near close to re­ceiv­ing in the past six years.

Geoff and Jacque run two, 16,000 hectare prop­er­ties in the re­gion – Mar­lee Downs Sta­tion and Ta­man­ick Sta­tion.

Geoff grew up on Ta­man­ick Sta­tion and in his 20s, pur­chased Mar­lee Downs with his par­ents in 1985, as they needed a drought-proof block.

Ta­man­ick is fat­ten­ing coun­try with its buf­fel grass­lands and Mara­noa river flood coun­try.

While Mar­lee Downs is hardy, mainly rugged mulga lands.

It’s been seven years since the Blacket fam­ily, in­clud­ing their two teenage chil­dren, Sa­van­nah, 15 and Jay­den, 14, have been on a hol­i­day.

“We have re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for cat­tle, dams have been dry, we’ve had a diesel gen­er­a­tor go­ing 24/7,” Jacque said.

“Plus, up un­til the changes with veg­e­ta­tion man­age­ment we were feed­ing cat­tle the mulga.

“We have some­times had hay de­liv­ered, we get it dropped clos­est to the bi­tu­men at Ta­man­ick, as a top up for the wean­ers, it costs a for­tune.”

WORLDLY EX­PE­RI­ENCE

WHILE the fam­ily hasn’t been able to leave the prop­erty for al­most a decade, they ex­pe­ri­ence dif­fer­ent cul­tures, right in their own back­yard.

Geoff and Jacque reg­u­larly host backpacker­s on their sec­ond-year hol­i­day visa.

“We’ve been host­ing them since about 2008,” Jacque said.

“We have a max­i­mum of four a year – they al­ways want to stay longer.

“We have a Cana­dian fel­low here at the moment, he’s been here since Novem­ber and wants to stay un­til June.

“We’re a small busi­ness so em­ploy­ing two peo­ple at a time has Mar­lee at ca­pac­ity.”

Jacque said her hus­band Geoff was the “typ­i­cal Aussie bloke” and the backpacker­s just loved him.

“He uses a lot of slang,” she said.

“I think he teaches them ev­ery kind of Aussie slang they could pos­si­bly learn.

“They form a great re­la­tion­ship with him work­ing in the pad­dock.” Jacque said the backpacker­s of­fered a whole range of skills.

“If we have a project in mind and can’t find some­one lo­cal do to it, I jump on Facebook and have a look at the back­packer’s page and see who is post­ing and what skills they have,” she said.

“We hosted some­one from the Nether­lands who was a diesel fit­ter and able to fix the D9H dozer for us.

“They seem to thor­oughly en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence.”

And ac­cord­ing to Jacque, it’s also been a great ex­pe­ri­ence for her chil­dren too. “It’s been good for our chil­dren to so­cialise with peo­ple from other coun­tries,” she said.

“We’ve had peo­ple from the UK, who play soc­cer and they’ve taught my kids how to play.

“The backpacker­s love their great Aussie ex­pe­ri­ence and we love it too.”

THE ALL ROUNDER

JACQUE grew up on a cat­tle prop­erty in New South Wales.

Twenty-two years ago she was nurs­ing in Toowoomba.

It was while at­tend­ing a nurses’ fundrais­ing ball in Charlevill­e she met Geoff.

“It took him for­ever to call,” she joked.

“But he rang out of the blue... We’ve been mar­ried for 18 years.”

Jacque home-schooled their chil­dren un­til they reached Year 7 and for the past four years they have em­ployed a home tu­tor. Sa­van­nah and Jay­den are schooled through Charlevill­e School of the Air.

For their fi­nal years of school­ing the kids will at­tend Scots PGC Col­lege in War­wick.

Jacque runs the house­hold, the busi­ness and helps her hus­band in the pad­dock.

And like most farm­ers, she works for off-farm in­come as well, as a nurse, due to the drought. Jacque said her chil­dren were her best helpers. “They have no choice,” she laughed.

“Geoff is away a con­sid­er­able amount – mus­ter­ing the cat­tle on Ta­man­ick and get­ting them ready for sale.

“We’ve just got the min­i­mum num­ber of cat­tle at the moment.” In a good year, Jacque said Ta­man­ick had the ca­pac­ity to carry 2000 breed­ers and an­other 1000 at Mar­lee. Orig­i­nally Geoff’s par­ents had here­fords, how­ever in re­cent years, they’ve moved to here­fords crossed with beef­mas­ter. But even­tu­ally want a full drought­mas­ter herd be­cause of their har­di­ness.

VEG­E­TA­TION LAWS

JACQUE said she and her hus­band Geoff were ap­palled at the veg­e­ta­tion man­age­ment saga, say­ing peo­ple had a poor un­der­stand­ing of how to man­age mulga lands.

She said they had spent time and money pro­cess­ing pre­vi­ous per­mits and man­age­ment plans, only to re­cently re­ceive a let­ter say­ing all pre­vi­ous ar­range­ments were void.

“I’ve heard it will be around $3000 to get a per­mit to clear very lit­tle ar­eas of 400 ha,” she said.

“Wait­ing two to three weeks for the per­mit to be granted is too long when cat­tle are wait­ing for food.

“You can only have one per­mit per lease.

“This does not al­low for cat­tle in other ar­eas on your prop­erty. In a drought time we don’t have $3000 for each per­mit we re­quire. The mulga lands are our life­line, we have to push it for it to re­gen­er­ate, so it can re­seed and re-shoot.”

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

LOVE OF THE LAND: Geoff and Jacque Blacket of Mar­lee Downs Sta­tion near Mitchell in Queens­land, with their two chil­dren Sa­van­nah and Jay­den.

DRY TIMES: Blacket cat­tle feed­ing on mulga lands.

A herd of the Blacket’s drought­mas­ter cat­tle ready for sale.

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