REAL AUSTRALIA

Voice of Real Australia: You want quirky characters, head to the outback

Cattle make the four day journey to the stockyards from the outskirts of the Simpson Desert in far west Queensland. Photo: Hayley Warden.
Cattle make the four day journey to the stockyards from the outskirts of the Simpson Desert in far west Queensland. Photo: Hayley Warden.

I'm writing this having recently returned from the depths of what many consider to be "real Australia".

I spent 16 days on a Queensland cattle station chasing bulls, brumbies, dingoes, feral pigs and camels (and virtually anything else that dared to move) and sleeping under the stars.

I rode the top rail of the stockyard more than once to escape an up close and personal interaction with a cranky cow, was the passenger for seven long kilometres through the outskirts of the Simpson Desert in a car completely devoid of steering, was chauffeured about in a chopper and mustered cattle in from the desert for four days *cries into her keyboard clutching coffee.

The dusty outpost is a far cry from the lush dairying country I call home. And it is magnetic.

Not just for its breathtaking landscape, but for the characters you meet along the way.

I interview Glenda Sutton after she trained and rode the winning camel in the 2019 Bedourie Cup. Photo: Geoff Cochrane.

I interview Glenda Sutton after she trained and rode the winning camel in the 2019 Bedourie Cup. Photo: Geoff Cochrane.

I flew into Bedourie on the "mail plane". There were five stops from Brisbane to my final destination more than 1700 kilometres away.

When I alighted, one of the passengers suddenly donned his ear muffs and morphed into the baggage handler and airport security officer. I found out he also owned the local roadhouse.

Sitting behind me was an American backpacker on her way to work in the outback. A journey many of her ilk make to extend their work visa. She looked positively petrified. She was concerned her boss, who was collecting her from the airport, wouldn't be able to find her. I assured her it wasn't a big place.

As luck would have it, she was going to work at the roadhouse. The same one the other passenger/baggage handler/security officer owned.

It is these funny stories that has you shaking your head and muttering "only in the outback".

Trevor "Colgate" Stewart (right) presents the blue ribbon to one of the winners at Bedourie Camel Races.Photo: Shelly Dillon.

Trevor "Colgate" Stewart (right) presents the blue ribbon to one of the winners at Bedourie Camel Races.Photo: Shelly Dillon.

Trevor "Colgate" Stewart is president of the Bedourie Golf & Leisure Club, which runs the Bedourie Camel Races.

The volunteer led event has been running for 21 years.

"It's such a great event and means so much to this little town,' he said.

"We took on the camel races to help raise funds to build our club house, it's been a great venture to get it up and running."

Maryann and Tom Johnson, Innisfail, Grant and Helen Little, Tasmania, get lucky on the pigs at Bedourie Camel Races.

Maryann and Tom Johnson, Innisfail, Grant and Helen Little, Tasmania, get lucky on the pigs at Bedourie Camel Races.

Noah's Thoroughbred Racing Pigs also proved extremely popular with spectators.

Tasmania's Grant and Helen Little, along with two other couples they were travelling with, purchased two pigs at auction in the 'Double Smoked Ham Grand National', winning themselves $890 in the process.

"We've never been to camel and pig races before, and why wouldn't you come here, it's a laugh, it's a great atmosphere, it's great for the community and supports the locals," Mr Little said.

"If we didn't win it didn't matter. It really was an awesome bit of fun."

And Australian Community Media journalists are capturing the stories of these characters every day.

Main image is of Rodger Alden officially opening a Bourke Show in the 1960s while the insert is Rodger at a Sydney reunion of former AML & F staff in 2013.

Main image is of Rodger Alden officially opening a Bourke Show in the 1960s while the insert is Rodger at a Sydney reunion of former AML & F staff in 2013.

Like Rodger Alden, who passed away at the age of 92 earlier this month, who throughout his lifetime called many parts of this vast country home.

Born in Adelaide in 1927, Mr Alden lived everywhere from Melbourne to Western Australia's remote Gascoyne region, Broome to Port Macquarie.

Leanne Byrne with one of her feathery babies.

Leanne Byrne with one of her feathery babies.

Sally Cripps wrote about two long-legged birds ruffling a few feathers in the Queensland town of Yaraka.

The two emus recently kept patrons entertained at the Yaraka pub with their antics. The duo were rescued as eggs from an abandoned nest and hatched with the help of an electric blanket by local identity Leanne Byrne.

And its not just adventurists and grey nomads traversing this vast land of ours. The Herd of Hope is giving a group of city kids who have experienced the loss of a loved one who went on to be an organ donor, a taste of outback life on Undoolya Station in Alice Springs.

"Dust, dirt and a crackling campfire are sometimes all it takes to lift the world from your shoulders - and we hope these children, who have suffered unimaginable grief through the loss of a loved one will feel that," Herd of Hope founder Megan McLoughlin said, herself a double transplant recipient.

South Australian author and freelance journalist Liz Harfull was over the moon to hear her book on Australia's food history had been internationally recognised. Pictures supplied.

South Australian author and freelance journalist Liz Harfull was over the moon to hear her book on Australia's food history had been internationally recognised. Pictures supplied.

It's also fantastic to see a fellow writer receiving accolades for her hard work. South Australian author and journalist Liz Harfull placed third at the 2019 Gourmand Awards in Macau recently, with her book that celebrates simplicity in cooking, much of it thanks to the ingenuity of outback women.

Tried Tested and True, a collection of recipes from Australian community cookbooks that helped shape their communities, features concoctions tested in country kitchens for more than 100 years.

I ventured into the world of agricultural writing earlier this year because I wanted to advocate for those living in rural Australia.

I don't see myself as their voice. They certainly have one of their own. I'm just helping them "get their message out there" and loving every minute of it.

Hayley Warden

Contributed Content Journalist - Agricultural Group, Australian Community Media

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