Alison and Fiona – life on the road

Host: Charles Darwin University, Katherine Rural Campus
Written by Alison Haines and Fiona Plunkett.

Alison Haines and Fiona Plunkett work for Charles Darwin University’s Agriculture and Rural Operations team as VET Lecturers / Workplace Assessors (Horse/Cattle Production). Along with the rest of the Agriculture and Rural Operations team based at the Katherine Rural Campus, they work with both residential and workplace students.

CDU 1.1 copyAlison Haines and Fiona Plunkett at the A.B.C. Brunette Downs Campdraft, Races and Rodeo – 2015. Photo credit: Barkly at Heart Photography

About Alison:

I have worked for Charles Darwin University (CDU) as a Vocational and Educational Training (VET) Lecturer/Workplace Assessor in Horse & Cattle Production for a bit over 5 years in total. Although this was not my original career plan, I love it! It is a fantastic career option that is mentally stimulating and allows me to stay connected and active within the pastoral industry while being flexible enough to have a life outside of work, something that previously hadn’t been that easy. The opportunities in the northern pastoral industry and in the NT in general are diverse and exciting. The industry is constantly seeking to expand and improve productivity, industry practice, and knowledge across a range of markets both domestic and international. Outside of work I love (not surprisingly) horses, campdrafting, barra fishing and travelling, which is perfect for an NT bred person like myself.

CDU 1.2 copyAlison Haines – Barramundi fishing in the NT. Photo credit: Alison Haines

About Fiona:

I have recently joined the Charles Darwin University team at the beginning of 2015 as a VET Lecturer/Workplace Assessor in Horse/Cattle Production. I am a teacher by trade but had spent the previous three years working for a contract mustering company based out of Katherine. This position allows me to combine my passions of teaching and the development of the northern pastoral industry. Working for CDU allows me to contribute to the industry and work with stations towards improving training opportunities for station personnel. I really enjoy the balance between station based time and office time. Outside of work I enjoy campdrafting, socialising and doing the odd muster out of work time. As a person that was only ever coming to the NT for “a year” I have been here for over four years now and don’t see myself leaving any time soon. I feel like I found the perfect job, which suits me down to the ground.

CDU 1.3 copyFiona Plunkett with some of the NIAPP – NTCA Indonesia Australia Pastoral Program exchange students after her win in the Encouragement draft at Daly Waters Campdraft in 2016 (with the beautiful Roma Saddlery trophy saddle). Photo credit: Alison Haines

Our main teaching role within the team is to look after the workplace students. We spend up to two weeks at a time on the road, visiting various stations and catching up with our on-station trainees. It can be a challenge to even find them some days when they are out mustering or working in remote areas, but this is a part of the job we particularly love as it allows us to get out of the office and enjoy the hands-on practical side of things whilst lending a hand wherever we are. For safety we carry maps, plenty of water and snacks, UHF radios, satellite phones, GPS Spot Trackers, use the PDF Maps iPhone application (which is fantastic and very reassuring at times) and have regular check in times with stations and supervisors.

Most of those who are undertaking the agriculture certificates work in the stockcamps although we also have some of the other station employees like bore-runners undertaking Rural Operations courses. We visit each station or workgroup 4 to 5 times a year to assess, liaise, observe, and help trainees with their theory assessments. We spend time with them in the workplace just doing whatever they are doing and run theory help sessions at night. This can mean some early mornings and late nights but coming from station and stockcamp backgrounds, we are used to those!

CDU 1.4 copy“Just go over the grid and head right, you can’t get lost … ” We couldn’t fit all of the 5 roads we found in this photo but we found our way in the end! All roads lead to Rome apparently … Photo credit: Alison Haines

 CDU 1.5 copyExcept when there are no roads … Barkly Tablelands 2015. Fiona’s question to Alison “Did you bring me all the way out here where there are no people to bury my body?” Again, we found our stockcamp in the end … Photo credit: Alison Haines

CDU 1.6 copyA long day in the saddle for this trainee on the Barkly Tablelands, NT. Photo credit: Alison Haines

We also help the team to deliver face to face training at the Katherine Rural Campus for our internal students and for the various company induction weeks held at the campus at the beginning of each year. We assist in arranging on-station short courses such as pregnancy testing, welding, maintenance of machinery, chemicals and chainsaws.  All in all, it keeps us on our toes.

The Agriculture and Rural Operations team are a great group to work with and are dedicated to providing the best service we can to our clients. Whether this is the workplace assessment lecturers (Fiona Plunkett, Kerrie Cokley, Lisa Devlin, and Alison Haines) driving a couple of thousand km in a week, tracking down stock-camps where they are mustering or processing cattle in the yards back of beyond or the Rural Operations guys delivering 4WD, chemicals accreditation, maintenance, welding and chainsaw training everywhere from Katherine to Lajamanu to the Barkly Tablelands, from the outskirts of Arnhem Land and across to the WA border and everywhere in between, we do the best we can to make it happen.

Please enjoy these photos from our travels far and wide in search of trainees.

Stay tuned in to meet some of our students and hard-working team members, on their adventures at the Katherine Rural Campus and across the Northern Territory.

CDU 1.7 copyNot a bad office if you can get it! Barkly Tablelands 2015. Photo credit: Alison Haines

CDU 1.8 copyBeautiful waterhole during a late afternoon drive back to the station after a long day in the yards. We really do get to see some of the most remote and beautiful places the NT has to offer. Photo credit: Alison Haines

CDU 1.9 copyTheory assessments and paperwork – get it done wherever you can! Photo credit: Alison Haines

CDU 1.10 copyFenced off sinkhole on the Barkly Tablelands – wouldn’t want to ride a horse or motorbike over the edge of this one! Photo credit: Alison Haines.

The Charles Darwin University’s Agriculture and Rural Operations (Top End) Team provides nationally accredited training in Certificate II in Agriculture (AHC20110), Certificate III in Agriculture (AHC30110) and Certificate IV in Agriculture (AHC40110) qualifications and short courses. Training can be done on campus or in the workplace.

The team is also responsible for the delivery of specialised industry programs including SMARTtrain Chemical Accreditation; 4WD Vehicle Recovery; Basic Welding; Tractor Operation; Basic Engine Maintenance; Chainsaw Operation; Pregnancy Testing and ATV Quad Training.

Enrolments open now, for more information contact:
KATHERINE RURAL CAMPUS – 1300 00 SKILLS
P. +61 8 8973 8311 | F. +61 8 8973 8300 | E. cdukatherinecampus@cdu.edu.au
PMB 155, Katherine, Northern Territory 0852 AUSTRALIA
RTO Provider No. 0373

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