Do you love a sunburnt country? A land of sweeping plains? Are you ready to put up with the droughts and flooding rains? Ok, so we just took those lines straight from Dorothea Mackellar, but she had it pretty spot on with her “My Country” poem. For those of you not familiar with it, it’s an iconic, patriotic piece written by a 19 year old Aussie girl while in London, homesick.
We think she had it pretty spot on. There’s something wild, majestic and mysteriously appealing about the outback. Sure, it has its downfalls, namely being isolation, the unforgiving heat and lack of access to other towns and shopping facilities. And your options for recreation are pretty limited (though they do exist – think rodeos, livestock exhibitions, bush dances etc).
But for the right type of person, the positives make it all worthwhile. The best aspects about living in the outback are a slower pace of life, a close knit station or town where the people are friendlier, and a real sense of belonging and community. Then there’s the fact you have some of the world’s oldest and most spectacular scenery right on your doorstep, and that every sunset belongs on a postcard, or Insta.
So what kind of jobs are available in the outback? Well, there’s definitely money to be made in the mining industry. And the government generally offers a higher rate of pay to teachers and public servants needed in remote locations.
What other types of jobs are there?
This job involves performing any kind of work that needs to be done on an outback station. Some key duties are managing the livestock herd using dogs, horses, quads, motorbikes or aircraft as required, and the management and maintenance of machinery, equipment facilities and infrastructure. You will also be involved with livestock husbandry and general property maintenance including water systems, fencing, and yard maintenance. Carrying out these duties in all conditions will test you and some tasks will be challenging and tedious. However, like any challenge, if you stick with it the payoff is rewarding and you’ll have a great adventure. If you enjoy your experience and want to keep going, you can work your way up to Leading Hand and then Headstockman.
In this role you’ll need to be a great team leader who has shown excellent horse and cattle handling skills. You’ll also need to demonstrate proficiency in most station maintenance duties. As well earning a reputation for being a reliable hard worker, you’ll also need exceptional communication skills and leadership ability, as you will be responsible for a number of workers and a wide range of livestock and property operations, including livestock feeding and mating programs, managing vehicle, equipment and property maintenance and training and supervising staff.
Station Cook/ Camp Cook
At a station, you can expect to cook for up to 30 people – breakfast, lunch and dinner. You may also need to prepare food for mid morning and afternoon breaks. You’ll often be required to butcher meat yourself, and make mince and sausages. You will also be in charge of ordering food and kitchen supplies and cleaning and maintaining the kitchen, dining area and all equipment. As a camp cook you go wherever the herd camp goes, so your kitchen might be makeshift and in the open air. Most of your cooking will be done over an open fire and you might need to get creative to put something together from whatever supplies you have on you.
This is a challenging but highly rewarding job and is a great idea for a gap year if you want to get into childcare or teaching. You will be employed by a family to supervise their children and in some cases to manage their education. You may or may not also have other duties including housekeeping or supervising the children outside of school hours. If the children are schooled on the property you’ll be responsible for supervising their daily work, ensuring they attend and participate in all lessons and keeping the classroom neat and tidy. You’ll need lots of patience and energy, and a genuine love of working with children!
Tradespeople are scarce in the outback so if you have a trade qualification it should be quite easy to find work. Some families in the outback wait for years for house repairs or alterations, so if you’re a builder, painter or electrician with good references you’ll probably be greeted with a lot of enthusiasm! If you do good quality work it’s likely the family will recommend you to other families in the area, and in this way referrals can take you from station to station. Be warned – news travels fast in outback communities, so if you do a poor job or rip someone off you can expect everyone for kilometres around to hear about it.
So, will life in the outback suit you? Agricultural employment is ideal for people who thrive on energetic activity and don’t mind getting their hands dirty. It’s about having a can-do attitude and enjoying hands-on responsibility. Sure, it can be tough, but if you’re up to the challenge it’s the type of adventurous work you’ll likely look back on as the best time of your life.