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Producer perspective: Jean Robins, Nth Qld

Jean Robins, 09/06/2011

After the 4 Corners story aired last week I was horrified, shocked, numb. One part of me was struggling to cope with the images that I had seen. The other part of me very quickly jumped to what this would mean for the rural industry. Immediately I began writing letters, making phone calls and trying to find others who wanted to do everything in their power to halt the cruelty in Indonesia but also understood the ramification for the beef industry as well as the rest of Australia.

After talking to many people I discovered that hardly any were writing letters or trying to speak out about this situation despite having very strong feelings. I went to my parents cattle station to discuss the issue with them. When I found out that they also hadn’t tried to speak out I was stunned. “Why?” I asked them “Why aren’t you trying to protect your livelihood, your life’s work, your passion?” I looked into my father’s eyes and what I saw there shattered me irreparably.

He, like so many people are not speaking out. Why? Because they are tired. Tired of constantly defending themselves against never ending attacks. Tired of fighting for the right to manage the land that they “allegedly” own. Tired of devoting their lives, daylight to dark, seven days a week 365 days a year to their land and their livestock. (Yes even Christmas Day. Animals have to eat and drink no matter what day it is.) Tired of being dictated to by green groups and animal liberationists and politicians who sit in their inner city offices and make decisions that will impact their whole lives without even trying to see the bigger picture. Tired of trying to keep mining and exploration companies from ruining the land that they love. Tired of trying to run a business in a remote area with unreliable electricity, intermittent telephone service and painfully slow internet. Tired of having to transport their livestock and their families on highways that would be better described as goat tracks. Tired of paying three times as much for their groceries and considerably more for their fuel and electricity. Tired of battling the drought, fires and floods that are the constant cycle of this country. Tired of going to town for stores or on business and being sneered at by people who think that their four wheel drive and bulbar is a status symbol instead of the necessity it really is.

My parents have devoted their entire lives, some 50 odd years, to the land. My father was working on the station full time by the time he was 14. There was no money, no holidays, no stress leave. When my parents were first married they lived in an old caravan on the station. To make ends meet my father had to go away operating machinery to put food on the table. It was 2 years before my mother had her first house. They struggled on through the years and had 3 kids which must have been terrifying with the only medical help over four hours away. I still remember going without shoes because there was no money that year. We survived on flour, potatoes, rice and beef and whatever veggies we could grow in our hard granite soil and inadequate bore water. There was no electricity and no telephone. And yet my parents struggled on because they genuinely loved what they were doing. They were excited for their future, their children’s future and the future of the beef industry. That excitement is well and truly spent now. Even though living conditions have changed dramatically for them everyday is still a struggle. They still pour all their income back into the station to try and make it more viable, sustainable and to improve animal welfare. They attend courses and meetings learning how to be better land managers, stock handlers and business people. And what thanks do they get. None. What will happen when these good hard working people finally give up? When their spirits have been broken and ground to dust under the heels of the self-righteous do-gooders who are gaining more and more power in this country. Who will look after the land and the animals then? Rural Australia is crying out for help and understanding. We need support now more than ever. I just hope someone sees this before it is too late.

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