If you are looking to build your career in agriculture and work in outback Australia, then look no further! Jumbuck Pastoral is an extensive pastoral operation, running sheep on large stations in Western Australia, South Australia and New South Wales, and cattle in the West Kimberley and Northern Territory. Working for an established, secure and family run business means further career opportunities and the chance to learn from experienced agricultural professionals.
Unless you have already experienced work on a station, work in the outback is a different career path than most of us are used to. While it is extremely rewarding, it can also be very challenging at times. The different experiences you face such as extremes of temperature, dust, loneliness and isolation, flies and drought can take some time to adjust to. Like any new job, you will need to work through the initial stages of uncertainty and understand it will take some time to acclimatise and get used to the outback lifestyle. If you go into your new role with enthusiasm and an open mind, you will be rewarded with valuable skills and undoubtedly make new friends for life. Give yourself at least a month or two to find your feet (and your way around the place!), but also give yourself a good six to 12 months to be really comfortable and to get the most out of your new job.
Below is some information that has been put together to help you get a basic understanding of what to expect when working and living on a station.
What does the job involve?
Hours of Work
Working hours are varied and often they will be irregular. At all times stock must have water and access to food. Windmills break down or there may be a wind drought at inconvenient times. These events can happen during working hours, but of course, they can just as likely happen during your off time as well. As livestock cannot go without water, you may find yourself working on weekends and after your usual finish time. Stock do not travel well in the heat of the day so it is usual to start very early, let them have a camp in the middle of the day and finish the job in the cool of the evening. You will find that along with the busy times, there are quieter times which will often balance things out. You may also get extra time off to compensate for particularly busy periods.
You will be sent on water runs once you know your way around the station. Water is the lifeblood of a property and to ensure that the stock have access to water at all times is one of the most important jobs on the run. When you do a water run, you have to check if tanks and troughs are full and clean and if windmills and pumpjacks are working. Dams must be checked and any stock that might be bogged need to be helped to walk away. Be observant; see if there are any leaks, what water level is in the tank and trough. Jot down the details of tank levels, stock at the water and any problems that need to be fixed. Strange rattles or loose parts should be reported to the manager at once.
Some stations use trap yards in which the stock can get in to water but not out. This is good but after a big rain the stock may not come in to water and the paddock will have to be mustered conventionally. Fixed-wing aircraft are used on many of our stations to spot sheep when mustering and helicopters assist in the mustering of cattle.
Once you have mustered the stock you may have to drove them to a set of yards, the homestead yards or another paddock. Remember that you can only travel as fast as the slowest animal and the leaders may have to be turned back or blocked regularly.
Promotion and Wages
Your wage will be advised before you start and can be found on your employment agreement. If you are employed full time you will be entitled to four weeks’ annual leave, sick pay and all staff are paid superannuation. Board and Keep is set by the Pastoral Award and this contributes towards your meals on the station as well as the costs of your accommodation and living expenses such as water, power, etc. Wages are reviewed regularly and once you have proven your worth as a first year station hand or stockman, the path is open for promotion. Jumbuck prefers to fill overseer, head stockman and manager jobs from current staff. Many of our current managers started as station hands.
Handy Skills to Develop in the Outback
Learning to be observant is a skill that is essential to develop in the bush. Look down in gateways when opening a gate and observe any tracks. Learn to recognise the tracks of sheep, cattle, dogs, foxes, camels, etc. Which way were they going? Were they walking to water or rushing; being chased by a dog perhaps? Recognise tyre and boot tracks; you will soon be able to tell whose vehicle went through the gate last. After a while you will learn to tell how fresh the tracks are. This skill added to your bush sense will be invaluable, as you will be able to follow stragglers when mustering or tell when someone you were meeting in the paddock has taken a wrong turn. Importantly, you will be known to be reliable, as you can find your way around. In scrub, once you have found the tracks of stock you are looking for, you should have no trouble mustering them. Being observant and interested also includes watching how others fix fences, put sheep/cattle through the draft, clean up flyblown sheep, and castrate a bull calf, etc.
Look after your vehicle, motorbike or horse. They are your transport and your well-being is dependent on them being in good condition. The day’s work is not finished until your vehicle is refuelled, any punctures mended and puncture kits and the like replenished. Similarly with your horse, wash them down and give them a feed and a drink before you finish for the day.