My chimes ding in the Barkly breeze.
I have reached the end of a long week… scratch that; a long fortnight.
So I’m resting in the peace of my home, listening to the chimes play their harmonies as they will; Flies unavoidable, like the soft stroke of my mothers fingertips across my back when I was stuck in church late on a Friday night.
There’s washing to do. And two out of three rooms tidied up for the next stint.
The new people have gone back to their lives 1000s of kilometres away to play with their new toy. Only the toy is not a robot. It’s live and breathing with feelings and choices.
It’s poddy calves worth saving. It’s cattle who know how to live in this harsh but beautiful land. It’s horses that team with their riders to get a job done. It’s riders who may not be the sort to do uni or even year 12 but are hard working valuable members of our Aussie society, who probably know more about respect and teamwork , a fair go and good leadership than a fair few of our city counterparts.
I don’t spend much time dipping into the culture that is the Anzacs. It has become a little religious these days. But one thing that I can tell you now, there are certain things that I have come to accept as being very Australian. The tradition of mateship that goes with the story of the Anzacs is definitely part of it. And while I may often feel sidelined from such phenomena, I am convinced that some of the strongest examples are found in the stockcamps of our cattle stations. These young men and women are precisely the sort who if called on, would respond and serve this country if threatened with war, as the Anzac heros of old once did.
Each of us are capable of making such big choices. We choose to be here. We choose the work and accept the grace afforded in good tucker and board. But we are not robots. We are not just a number. We have our strengths and our weaknesses. And with good leadership in the form of a headstockman and manager, we are able to take all those strengths and run a reasonably efficient operation.
Life on a cattle station is not something to be taken for granted. We are a mini community. We work together everyday. But then we have a drink together and eat together and live together. We go to social events together.
It’s easy to see that we look like robots. But we are not. Each person chooses to eat brekky or not. For some it’s a simple thanks for the coffee cookie. Some like to have beer, some don’t. We each come here from vastly different places in this country, south Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Some are well educated, others can barely read.
The thing that makes a place like this is good, strong leadership. The kind found in the Anzac stories. The ones who would lead the boys regardless of the situation. Who is not our best buddy but a mate nonetheless, ready to get as dirty as the least of the team. A leader ready to be a fair judge and to develop each part of the team.
When a big city company looses a manager, it’s normal to expect that it’s not that hard to replace them. But out here, managers are more than the robotic replaceable managers of the city. (Look I know even there they are not robots … they have family, responsibility but it’s still just a job) Station Managers are part of the very fabric of our local community. We look to them for answers and decisions for more than just business questions. We look to them to keep the peace. Not by rules, but by the law or fair go. We look to them to help keep each other safe in this harsh environment of long roads and excessive heat.
So when you cut stab boot a good manager out, your likely to be upsetting the people you need around to help you make your profit and sure! We are all replaceable. But you can’t buy trust. And you need our trust to get the job done well.