Adventures of workplace assessors

Host: Charles Darwin University, Katherine Rural Campus
Written by Fiona Plunkett – VET Lecturer, Charles Darwin University Agriculture and Rural Operations.

VET Lecturers/Workplace Assessors Fiona Plunkett and Lisa Devlin from Charles Darwin University’s Katherine Rural Campus have been out and about doing station visits. This is their story of a typical day whilst conducting workplace assessment visits to stations across the Northern Territory.

The sun wasn’t even making its mark on the morning horizon when young ringers Blake Dukino and Darcy McKenzie arrived at the kitchen for breakfast; they were ready to tackle another busy day on the Barkly Tablelands. For both Darcy and Blake, spending a year working on cattle stations in the Northern Territory was something they had always wanted to experience and they have been looking forward to this adventure for some time. Darcy has just finished high school in 2015 and after coming off a property in QLD is enjoying his current NT experiences. Blake is a qualified farrier and has also made the venture north with no regrets.

Photo 2.1 copyL-R : Darcy McKenzie and Blake Dukino – Helen Springs Station.

Both of these ringers are studying a Certificate II in Agriculture (AHC20110) with Charles Darwin University whilst working at Helen Springs Station. On this surprisingly not too cold and windy winter morning, two of Charles Darwin University’s workplace assessors (Fiona and Lisa) are on-site to see how the boys were going.

After a quick bite to eat we accompanied the boys to the yards and they drafted up a couple of hundred cows that were to be trucked later that day. From there we headed out, on what seemed like a whole lot of roads leading anywhere but Rome, with the tipper truck loaded with hay to another set of yards in the middle of the open Barkly plains, where cattle waited eagerly for the arrival of the hay.

Photo 2.2 copyBlake Dukino feeding out hay – Helen Springs Station.

Photo 2.3 copyDarcy McKenzie and the cows enjoying their hay – Helen Springs Station.

Blake and Darcy fed the hay out to the cattle and we were quickly back in the truck and moving on. There was no time to sit around and watch the happy cows munching on hay as we were heading further north to pick up horses to go mustering. As Blake was riding the station motorbike during this muster, he chucked on his helmet and took off to give the plane a hand to bring in some stragglers. Meanwhile Darcy had got his horse sorted and was headed down to the coacher mob. “You get plenty of variety in the things you do on a station, you never get bored” said Darcy as we headed to the gathering mob.

An hour later we have our mob under control and are walking down the graded road towards the yards. The stockcamp are keeping themselves amused with conversations on the two way, Darcy and Blake throwing their two cents worth in here and there. “You’ve got to be careful who you pay out” Darcy reckons with a smile on his face. “I don’t want to get the short straw with the end of day chores”.

Photo 2.4 copyL-R : Gregory Gook and and Blake Dukino walking cattle – Helen Springs Station.

As the afternoon went on the yards finally came slowly into sight and on arrival at the yards the cattle are moved into the cooler to have a rest and mother up. Not to be found sitting around Blake and Darcy were off helping the mechanic fix the horse truck, before jumping back on their trusty steeds to put the cattle in the yards.

Travelling back to where we were camped out with them as the sun went down, Blake and Darcy were happily chatting about their day, what was going on tomorrow and of course what they thought they might get for dinner. When we arrived at No. 5 camp the boys gave us a quick tour as they grabbed a well-earned beer, lit the fire to warm the water for the showers, and grabbed gear ready for the next day.

As we all sat down for dinner the boys were happy to tell us that they had been working on some of their theory questions and were eager for us to have a look. This was excellent news for us, as it’s always easier to help with the harder questions when the students have had a go a completing the assigned work before we arrive.

“The good thing about doing the Certificate II in Agriculture on-station is that we don’t have to leave the station, we can learn all the skills here and then when the CDU staff come out we go through and do some theory, which are questions based around why we do certain things certain ways in the pastoral industry. It’s actually quite interesting some of the things you find out!” said Blake. Darcy chimes in, “Hopefully we are going to do a couple of short courses on-station as well”. He is referring to the welding and quads course that CDU is going to run at Helen Springs later in the year. When asked about another good reason for completing their Agriculture qualifications whilst working on-station, they both smiled and said “It’s FREE!” Of course in this day and age that’s quite a drawcard!!

After some time completing their theory after dinner, Blake and Darcy were back out around the campfire with the rest of the stockcamp, music playing in the background, and the sounds of laughter drifting through the cool evening air. Just another day in the life of a ringer and a good day’s work for Fiona and Lisa.

At sunrise the following day, we were off to the next station and to see what the next stockcamp are up to.

Photo 2.5 copyFound them! Fiona and Lisa finally catch up with the stockcamp.

Photo 2.6 copyA welcome drink at the end of a long walk.

Photo 2.7 copyAnother beautiful Barkly sunset.

Photo 2.8 copyA photo of the map in Fiona, Lisa and Alison’s office, showing stations visited and country covered across the NT.

Photo 2.9 copyFiona Plunkett (far left) completes paperwork with trainees from Wild Contracting crew.

Photo 2.10 copyWalking cattle, Barkly Tablelands.

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:
P. +61 8 8973 8311 | F. +61 8 8973 8300 | E.
PMB 155, Katherine, Northern Territory 0852 AUSTRALIA
RTO Provider No. 0373