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QUEENSLAND AMISS

11 Jun 2015 9:03 AM - Story by Jodie Sewell

“Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving, and we don’t know where he are”.

Whenever Brad has hit the road to QLD, this line always comes to mind.  Generally, because I “don’t know where he are”.  Recently Jodie Sewell decided to remedy this by taking on the role of riding shotgun ceremoniously titled CEO Gate Opener on a weeklong trip with Brad.  The mission was to support Brad on the 2,500km run meeting agribusiness clients through northern NSW and SW QLD which concluded by being a keynote speaker on the topic of Agribusiness finance at Injune, 100km north of Roma.

Nothing more draws the illuminate curiosity of a road less travelled.  Where big blue skies meets red bull dust ratcheted by a Landcruiser barrelling through the mulga scrub, and the local folk drawing humour from humility, hospitality from boundless liberality and tenacity from necessity.  

Jodie’s story underpins the enigma of our nation’s character and personifies the passion in Brad’s quest to support our peers in the bush.  Read the article and view the pictures.  We invite feed back and look forward to your responses.  

Happy Travels….


THE STORY

We spent the first couple of years of our married life at Broken Hill, so long flat plains and monotonous roads are no stranger to me.  We headed off on a Friday and first stop was Nyngan, where an enterprising couple have set up an extraordinarily cosmopolitan café called “The Cocky’s Wife”.  Suitably fortified, we continued on to Bourke for a quick meeting with the manager of Landmark.  After refuelling (the vehicle, that is) we continued on past Engonia where the country was fairly hopping with ‘roos.  Our roadside friends were always looking for a quick way to kangaroo heaven on the entire trip.

We arrived at Tim and Linda Oldfield’s property after dark, cold out but a warm welcome awaited us.  By chance they had three debonair fellows from Sydney flying in that day, loaded up with fresh seafood from the Fish Markets.  With Tim’s parents, son, and neighbours, it was a wonderful country meal, short on mutton but big on seafood.  The old homesteads with their encompassing verandahs are built for the long hot summers, but inside we were kept warm by a log fire, plenty of good wine and amusing conversation.  We had 13 around the dinner table, of which 9 were pilots.  Old John, sprightly and vibrant at 82, was tutoring young Will for the next stage of his pilot’s licence, heads bent over books in the kitchen.  The Sydney friends all spoke of their appreciation for the opportunities to visit this property, and the difference it had made to their tech dependant offspring to experience life where the internet is not available.


SUNSETS AND PIG RACES

We woke to a beautiful sunrise across the dusty paddocks – nowhere else can you see such amazing dawns as those in the bush where nothing impedes the view of the sun’s ascent.  We headed off towards Cunnamulla, where Brad was meeting with a couple who had attended the Charlieville Seminar a few weeks back.  We were treated to tea and zucchini slice while they discussed financing needs.  On to Cunnamulla, where the show (once a 3 day event, now cut down to one) was in progress.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and the horse events were in full swing.  We were drawn to a large crowd which turned out to be a piglet race. Brad was asked to be the Chief Steward and requested to take his place in the Corporate Box (looked suspiciously like a cardboard box from IGA to me) and determine the place getters.  That very important job completed, we were free to inspect the rest of the show.  The Pavilions showed a huge array of crafts and sewing, but a lack of fruit and vegetable entries.  Many ladies take the opportunity to dress up in hats and coats, social occasions being far and few between. 

Over the next few days we visited Wyandra, Charlieville, Quilpie, Tambo, Augathella, Morven, Muckadilla, Roma and Injune, catching up with clients old, new, and prospective.  Country hospitality was always in abundance, with copious amounts of tea and scones, soups, roasts and curries.  A bed was always available and greatly appreciated.  The country ranges from dry dustbowls, to rocky clay soils, to pretty good grazing country.  The ‘roos were everywhere.  The isolation is incomprehensible – I daren’t complain of my measly 5 hour trips to Sydney to visit my kids, these families endure a 10 hour + trip to visit their children in either Brisbane or Toowoomba, some of whom start boarding school in Year 6 after primary years on School of the Air.  Some people employ governesses – one mother said to me “I tried teaching the kids for 12 months and it nearly destroyed our relationship”. 

Even visiting with the neighbours can be an all day event, with one driveway taking us a good 40 minutes to traverse.  The women who are lucky enough to have jobs in town, bring in much needed cash, and often board or rent during the week, returning home on weekends. 


HOW DOES A FELLA FIND A GIRL TO MARRY IN THE BUSH?

I was surprised by how many city girls are out in the bush.  How does a girl from the beachside suburb of Glenelg in Adelaide, end up 1600km out in the sticks?

“My mum thought jillarooing would make for a good gap year.  I cried every night for the first two months.  When Alex and I met he was working on a neighbouring property.  When the river flooded we would row across to visit each other, using a shovel as an oar”.

And the Melbourne girl – “We met at a wedding.  We’d been courting for two weeks when he laid it out on the table – I live in Tambo.  If this is going to happen, you need to be prepared to move”.

And another guy – “She had just taken up a job in town.  I was smitten but she was already engaged.  I told her she couldn’t ignore the sparks between us.  Her parents didn’t speak to us for two years.”

If it’s not drought, it’s flood, and in this flat country every structure is built to stay out of reach of flood waters.  Hard to believe that the floodwaters can reach so far and wide.  Being an avid gardener, I loved the opportunity to see what people can build out of what often is only a lot of dust and very little water.  We visited a beautiful oasis on the banks of the Langlo River, where water is abundant, and the garden is flooded with the contents of the tank once a week.  It was a real treat to visit after some of the homesteads where poor water quality, quantity, and poor soil; as well as  frequent visits from ‘roos and rabbits make gardening impossible.  When the river is in flood, pots and ornaments are hastily scooped up and placed on the verandah, and the gates left open to hopefully let the river rubbish flow out into the paddocks.


A SURE CONSTANT - THE KANGAROO

Kangaroos have ousted wild dogs as the main topic of conversation, and have risen in numbers due to water improvements and availability.  Several landholders around Tambo have taken on the building of a “Cluster Fence” encompassing 21 properties totalling 226,584 hectares, and a perimeter fence of 330km.  I can only imagine what a huge task co-ordinating this project was.  Each landholder contributed $1.50 per acre, with the total project costing $2.4 million with a 30% government grant.  Once the fence is complete there will be a roundup of wild dogs and pigs within the confines of the fence.  Once these are eradicated landholders will be able to include sheep in their livestock programs again.

On Wednesday night we held a seminar in Injune in conjunction with Ray White Rural.  Our speakers included Brad, Ray White Rural, Thyne & Macartney Lawyers; Bentleys Accounting; and Taylor Byrne Valuers.  The seminar was well attended with all topics being highly relevant and geared to the area.  Afterwards we had drinks and nibbles, followed by an enjoyable dinner at the local pub with some of the families. Unfortunately this coincided with the State of Origin match, so we huddled down the back and kept quiet J

Then the long leg home – Injune to Roma, then Roma to Walgett where we caught up with a couple of clients for the night, then on to Dubbo.   All without a single roo dint!

So for me, it’s back to the “round eternal of the cashbook and the journal” – but hopefully, I’ll be doing this trip with Brad again.  And this time, I will “know where he are”.