Regional Australia and Farm life

I know I am well overdue for a blog post, a lot has happened since my last and a lot has changed. Especially me. It really is a refreshing experience when you learn more about yourself and what you are prepared to do, tolerate and strive for to be a happier person.

For me it started when I left Sydney to complete our regional work, it had its ups and downs and really hit us hard in the face. I knew we would change here and that the experience would be one we would not easily forget , but I wasn’t sure how and I certainly wasn’t sure if I was ready. Committing yourself day in day out to the needs of strangers for 3 months is not an easy choice and all sorts of doubts enter your mind, but if you want that coveted second year working holiday visa you have to make the choice.

Before I start my tale I won’t go into details of the people we worked for, nor will I mention the company name or post any pictures of them and their children. Respecting their privacy is as important to me as it is to all of them.

We left Sydney on the 17th March 2013 and hopped on a train to mid-north NSW, the train ride was filled with trepidation, curiosity and down right fear…I have heard of the movie Wolf Creek and the fact that it was based on true events, also other people delight in telling you how there is nothing in most of the rural areas of Australia and that you are all alone! So obviously I imagined how long it would take my parents to learn of my disappearance. Ok a little melodramatic and I am sure they would notice if I didn’t place any pictures on Facebook or send them a Birthday card, they would wouldn’t they? Right?

So here we begin 3 and a half months of learning, making new friendships, arguing and almost getting seriously injured on a number of occasions. Being collected in a dirty 4 wheel drive by husband, wife and 5 of 8 children I was a little intimidated. Names were being thrown around everywhere and hyperactive faces were gleaming at the two new backpackers. On the way to the land the Husband “Mr P” decided to try to intimidate us a little, I immediately turned into my no-phased cocky teenage self from way back when (just throwing a little attitude out there), he wasn’t happy about that so he wanted to test me. On the way up the drive I had my first encounter with the animals that were to be my enemies, my friends and my lifelines for my time there. Mr P told me to get into the paddock with 3 pregnant mares and retrieve their food buckets, his wife Mrs P told him not to. Again cocky teenager in my brain thought “I’m not afraid, let’s this”. The horses didn’t see me and as soon as they did I had hold of buckets, obviously they thought I had food and came at me. Waaaaaah freak out, buckets in one hand other arm up in the air.

Once I made it out alive and reconnected the electric fence it turned out I did the right thing and I had a natural instinct….to not die!

Our time on the farm was to be spent waking up in our caravan, feeding 30+ horses, cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, dogs, rabbits, cat  and our very own kitten their  breakfast, helping with any job (from babysitting, panel beating, cattle chasing and butchering) then feeding them all dinner again. The diversity of what we did astounded us. Some of these jobs completely altered my perception of certain things and I learned so much from such accomplished people. I appreciated the chance to get close to such beautiful animals and really begin to understand and work with them. Watching Mr P, who actually is the real horse whisperer, work the horses was unbelievable.

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My love lied with one horse, a disabled 9 year old paint horse who had a story to break anyones heart. She won shows and was Mr P’s pride and joy, even taking her into the bedroom of his son one time he was sick. On a trail ride she broke her pelvis and he slept by her side turning her over on old mattresses until she healed. When fixed the mischievous mare got her way into the feed bin and ate so much she developed chronic laminitis. She could hardly walk and had bed sores galore. She was a sorry sight but had an attitude problem to match anyone. She became my best friend. I fed her, cleaned her, nursed her seeping wounds, lay with her, made sure she was warm and dry when I could. She gained weight and begin to stand up straighter, I was winning. So much so she walked around a hell of a lot more and decided she wanted to eat the dog’s food too, it was as if we had to watch a curious toddler. She wasn’t in a paddock she was roaming around the washing line, the garden and our caravan. I even heard her snoring some nights. In this place I discovered more compassion than I knew I had and fell head over heals in love. She was demanding but she was easy.
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The farmer obviously had a family to feed, meaning home kills were a necessity. I was not prepared for this and no matter how much I tried to tell myself I could deal with it I couldn’t. I couldn’t be around it. Anita stepped up to the plate for me and to learn what her Grandad was too old to teach her when he had his own farm many moons ago. After being there for some of it, being around a pregnant cow who came for cuddles when she was in labour and another who loved attention, seeing a calf born and seeing the helplessness of calves from the dairy industry at the markets – who once was a meat eater stopped eating meat. I couldn’t do it anymore. The pain, the guilt and the tears made me not want to do it ever again. I have not eaten meat for 10 months and I do not look back. They understood, Mrs P was a vegetarian and by no means did the family take where their meat came from for granted. The animals were more than well looked after. But I realised my love for animals out weighed my love of meat, so it was an easy decision. I connect with them and we soon discovered Anita is the one who shouldn’t be allowed to work within close proximity to anything that is living.
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I mentioned we nearly got hurt a number of occasions, well the only thing I got hurt with was myself and inanimate objects.I nearly got crushed a few times, I nearly copped my own fingers off with a machete and I nearly fell off a roof. Pretty standard stuff for a clumsy nugget. However,  Anita had some dozy moments to be proud of.
  • Rule number 1:  if you have a horse on a lead, it tries to bolt and you have no lead left – let it go!
Not Anita, she thinks holding onto the rug of a horse is a suitable way to respond resulting in her being dragged from the stable.
  • Rule number 2: if you open a gate of a paddock and there are large living animals in that paddock –  shut the gate.
Not Anita, she lets the entire herd of cattle out into the driveway and house yard so we have to spend the best part of 5 hours on our own chasing them away from the feed shed and the garden.
  • Rule number 3: if you have an animal on a lead (such as a cow) – do not put food into it’s container until the holder of the lead is safely out of harms way.
Not Anita, she thinks the food will keep the cow in one spot so you can control her and not that she will twist and turn and crush my fingers in a lead because she wants dinner.
The only animal she got on with was a cute little harmless kitten, actually she was OK with anything smaller than the Ridgebacks. Magnet became our little pet in our caravan until he could fend for himself a little. We loved him terribly.
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With their family we became family, we became their daughters, their siblings, their aunties and most of all their friends. And did we all argue like it too. Arguing and bickering is unavoidable in such a dangerous environment where the work we do is their life and you are apart of it day in and out, 24/7.

There were fun times like having picnics and fires with the kids and there were hard times like when one of the mares lost her foal due to paralysis tic and I thought I hadn’t treated them correctly. But the hardest part was leaving. Leaving the animals and people that made it such an amazing journey. There’s so much more that happened that I haven’t got the space in this blog post to write and that will all be forever in my journal.

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But backpackers know this, there are many places to do your regional work. Some that pay and some that don’t. You need to complete 3 months in one place or 88 working days in multiple places, some pay and some don’t. Although everyone would love to get paid for the regional work that they do, please do not let that put you off doing work exchange and woofing because these people really need the help too. Probably more.

No matter where you go you will have the experience of a lifetime that most would never get the opportunity to have at home. I know I wouldn’t have and that’s why I’ve already been back and I am going back again. To my new Aussie home.

Resources:

We found our regional work by completing a membership with Travellers At Work, all the adverts are live and the staff are brilliantly helpful.

To find out if an area or job description qualifies for 2YV:

Eligible Postcodes

Specified Work

Visa Application Forms (proof)

You must make sure that the place you are going to has a registered and valid Australian Business Number (ABN), you can check the status of an ABN here.

Take your forms with you, you need proof that you have worked there in case the immigration people check your visa application. Get them here, you can also apply for your visa online.

Remember to agree working hours before you start some farms will take you for granted if you allow them to and some will hardly ask you to do any work, the main priority is to make sure your required days are covered doing a qualifying job in a qualifying location.

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