Muster pulls in those looking for their station in life

29 Mar, 2010 11:37 AM

STOCKMEN call it the McLeod's Daughters syndrome.

Every year dozens of young people who have watched the television program travel from southern states to help fill a shortage of jackeroos and jilleroos on cattle stations across Australia's north.

But Paul Jenkins, strategic projects manager of the Indigenous Land Corporation, says most of them do not last much longer than a gap year in the harsh environment.

"Most of them only stay one, possibly two, years before they go back to university or another job."

Now government agencies and cattlemen are pushing young indigenous people into full-time jobs on the stations, hoping they will become career stockmen.

Tanya Callanan, 30, says she is proud to be taking up horse work the same as her Aboriginal mother and grandfather, who worked cattle on land that is now Kakadu National Park.

"The work is worth getting out of bed for," says Ms Callanan, a former ranger at Kakadu.

"It's the smell of the leather, the smell of the horses, being able to handle horses and read and muster the cattle. And nothing beats sitting down around the campfire at sunset swapping yarns with your mates after a hard day's work ."

The Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association has secured jobs for eight first-year indigenous stockmen who are among 24 young Aborigines undergoing a two-week training course at Tipperary Station, 150 kilometres south of Darwin.

Ms Callanan hopes when the course ends on Thursday that she will secure one of four vacancies at the station, which runs 75,000 head of cattle.

The federal Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs is funding the Indigenous Land Corporation to convert 150 part-time work positions for indigenous people to full-time jobs, 45 of them in the pastoral industry.

The corporation was set up in 2005 to help Aboriginal people with land management.

Luke Bowen, head of the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association, says station owners are keen to employ indigenous stockmen who have undergone courses like the one at Tipperary.

"The industry wants to ensure all involved enjoy the training and the job and as a result come back next year,'' he says.

Meanwhile, this week in the remote Arnhem Land community of Yirrkala, 200 indigenous children will each receive a specially designed XO laptop as part of a One Laptop Per Child Australia program.

The program, backed by some of Australia's biggest companies, plans to provide laptops to thousands of children living in outer-regional, remote and very remote communities.



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