Lucy Fay – Home tutor to the O’Brien boys

Host: Liveringa Station
Written by Karen O’Brien – Manager, Liveringa Station.

I’ve found over the past couple of years that our Home Tutors have become like family members. Lucy is no exception. We all adore her – she is fun, intelligent and funny. I love her positive influence on the kids . . . and often pass by the door of the school room (in the back of our house) and have a laugh to myself at the goings on. I was particularly amused last week when Lucy (clearly grasping for any tactic that might work) said “Remember, God and Santa see everything!” I so love that the boys  hold equal regard for the two . . . and that she gets that!

It was not so long ago that Lucy (a bit of a fashionista) told me that she was not quite ready to wear a Liveringa shirt (the typical workshirt worn by Ringers up here) and that I would NEVER see her in cowboy boots or, God forbid, a cowboy hat. Now she owns a couple of Liveringa shirts, religiously wears the Ringers’ old Wranglers cut down into shorts and a big old hat given to her by the boreman . . . and she recently bought herself a pair of cowboy boots.

I reckon we’ve got her!      

– Karen


Driving down the Liveringa driveway, back in February for the first time, has easily been one of the most frightening things I have done. A muddy road, paired with my questionable 4WDing skills and complete lack of knowing what was ahead had my heart racing and palms sweaty (that could have also been the 40 degree heat that a Victorian rarely experiences). Upon arrival, “Pigsy” (one of Liveringa’s more colourful characters) pointed me in the direction of my “donga”, aka shoebox bedroom, and my home for the next year. I then had the sudden realisation that I had packed way too many pairs of high heels . . .

If you told me 12 months ago that I would be working in the Kimberley on a one million acre outback cattle station I probably would have choked on my latte and laughed. After gradating in 2010 with a media degree and interning at a magazine in Melbourne, I scored my dream job working at a large PR agency in junior fashion publicist role. A girly girl’s ultimate career. Free shoes, parties, celebrities, and a Devil Wears Prada-esque boss who drove me to quit and throw it all away. Turns out to have been the best decision I have ever made. I packed up and went backpacking around Europe to ‘find myself’ (aka sun myself on various Mediterranean beaches for a few months, whilst drinking exotic cocktails and shop in hidden marketplaces).

When I got home I quickly concluded that I was unsettled in Melbourne, it no longer felt like home, and being unemployed was completely boring. I got a part-time nannying job for a beautiful family, and realised that this was somehow more suited to me than an office would ever be. I applied for a Masters in Education to do by correspondence, and thought ‘Why not make an adventure out of the next few years?’ – Three weeks later I was at Liveringa, employed as a Home Tutor.

5.2Lucy with the boys in school.

Meeting Karen that first day at Liveringa instantly put my mind at ease. Sharing similar upbringings in Victoria, interests, and values on children’s education, we’ve bonded more than just your average employer/employee relationship – we’re great friends. I would actually be lost without her support up here. Karen is my parenting idol, I have learnt so much from her that I can hopefully use on my children one day (in the far, far future). Because it’s her four kids who have made my time up here so awesome.

5.3They also make excellent slaves . . .

Patrick (7.5 years) and Bill (6 years) are my two students in the Liveringa school room. They are both clever, witty, fun, and of course, super cheeky. They have me in hysterics everyday with their comical anecdotes of each other and their profound statements on life that just seem to flow out of their mouths. Sometimes I think they’re teaching me! Patrick proclaimed the other day, looking very self-assured, that ‘I will just know when I meet the one. And she will just have to marry me. I’m not worried.’ Right . . . And just when I think that I’m tutoring two boy geniuses, they will start calling me ‘Miss Poosey’, and laughing at the fact that that Bill can make fart noises with his chair.

I must admit, although I try and make school as fun as possible, the boys’ commitment to their education is sometimes a little lack-lustre. We go through the usual ‘not maths, I hate maths’ and ‘I can’t write that! Look, Lucy, that’s a whole sentence, it’s wayyyyy too much’. But because they are both intelligent individuals, they just get on with it, despite the distraction of doing school in their own home, and having a farting chair in the room.

5.4You have no idea how hard it was to get this photo . .. never invite a puppy to a  photo shoot with kids . . .

Lachy (4 years) and Vivienne (2 years) are the littlies, and are still (mostly) at that completely innocent, sweet stage. Without realising that it could be detrimental to a girl’s self-esteem, Lachy asked me why my bottom was so big and wobbly. He must have noticed the tears welling in my eyes when he then quickly added, ‘You’re so pretty, I want to marry you’ . . . I had to let him down gently. Vivienne, being the little cherub girl, is obviously super special to me. We share bonding moments over picking out hair clips, cuddling, playing dolls, and reading about princesses. Then I’ll turn my back for one moment and Viv is covered head-to-toe in mud, wearing a dinosaur tail, holding a toy light-sabre and attempting to climb on a motorbike. With three older brothers, you have to kind of expect it! She is that fabulous mixture of adorable cuteness and rampant cheekiness that I love about little kids.

5.5Lucy with Vivienne and Lachlan.

It’s not all giggles and fun – there are often punching competitions, mud wrestles, tears, and a few mild tantrums over completely unjust situations (‘He touched my arm!!!’). These are some of the real reasons I love children so much. They are just kids, being kids, and instead of trying to stop that, I’m trying to encourage a playful, yet graceful attitude that I think what being a kid is all about. Finding the balance between cranky-fun-police-authority-figure and exciting-funny-cool-friend to the kids is probably my greatest challenge up here. But I can’t stay cranky for more than one minute it seems, and our little bust-ups more often than not turn into laughing fits and jokes for our future reference.

I may have laughed myself at the thought of being on a Station a year ago, but now I can’t imagine being anywhere else. I have made some amazing friends, girls and guys from all over Aus who all seem to have the same light-hearted, carefree, and relaxed attitude the Kimberley brings out in you.

 5.6Lucy, Steph and Jo.

I’ve done things I never thought I’d ever do – swam (involuntarily, thanks Pigsy) in croc-infested waters, flown in choppers, gone to rodeos (for fun), caught barramundi, preg tested cows, looked after 20 poddy calves, and so much more.

5.7Lucy’s poddies: Keith, Baz, Bobby and Bambi!

Being a home tutor for Karen and Jed and their four beautiful, mischievous, and hilarious children, as well as being a part of Liveringa, has completely put my life into perspective. I barely know the girl I was 12 months ago. Although I still do love my shoes.

5.8Stephanie and Lucy.

 5.10Lauren Foley

This year we have been fortunate in the employment of possibly the most efficient and pragmatic 22 year old I have ever met! Lauren is a highly competent individual who manages to meet all our crazy office demands, as well as run “Stockbook” for us (an electronic livestock identification database) whilst maintaining her University studies . . .

Sometimes I think that there is nothing she can’t do. Occasionally I think it might be fun to really test her and ask her to do something ridiculous – like organise me a flight to Mars or something!

A typical conversation with Lauren might go something like this:

“Would you be able to get a Purchase order for Mit . . .”

“Did it yesterday.”

“Where are the minutes from yest . . .”

“On Jed’s desk.”

“Have you faxed the order off to PFD?”

“Yes and I organised nest week’s and sent that off too.”

“Oh, I guess that’s all I needed to see you about then . . .”

And as I leave wondering if I AM actually completely superfluous,

“Oh, and I’ve emailed you your tickets to Mars.”


Lauren’s entry follows . . .

Two years ago I was living, studying, and working in Brisbane, commuting an hour each way to work and Uni. I grew up in Brisbane with little to no experience in the cattle industry. However today a Kimberley Cattle Station is where I call home.

 5.9The Grant Ranges, on Liveringa Station.

In 2012 I worked in the stockcamp at Blina Station where I went on a steep learning curve – cattle, dust, fencing, and a lot of running.

I went home for the wet to continue my University studies but just couldn’t find the same love for Brisbane that I felt for the Kimberleys. Whilst procrastinating my uni assignments I found the Liveringa Administration position on ‘Seek’. I applied immediately and have been on Liveringa since March 2013.

This job allows me to work and study full time while enjoying the perks of living in one of the most beautiful parts of the world and being a part of the ever exciting cattle industry.

5.11Sun setting over silos at Liveringa.

Did I mention I met an extremely good looking helicopter pilot whilst on Blina? Another great reason to love the Kimberleys. Weekends here are always an adventure. Whether it’s taking my motorbike up the river for a fresh barra, camp drafting and rodeos, fire fighting, the occasional helicopter joy flight, and even the chance to get back in the yards and chase some cattle.

5.12Lauren’s home (and more importantly, her motorbike!).

 5.13Lauren on a fishing trip in the chopper.

For a region where your neighbours are far and wide, I have found the Kimberley cattle stations to be so close knit, a community of hardworking people who have a passion for this industry and their beef – I’m happy and thankful for the opportunity to call the West Kimberley home.

5.18Lauren’s (extremely goodlooking) boyfriend coming to visit!


Throughout the course of a given year, we can have a large number of contractors living and working here. We also have regular annual visitors like Lyle and Helen Kent with their “mobile saddlery” or Jim and Terry Lindsay who run “Low Stress Stock Handling” courses. These people add to the tapestry of life in a small community like ours. This year we have also had Darren Clews and family (preg-testing), pivot mechanics (repairing and re-standing the upturned pivot), Alf Turner (bull testing), Brian Hall (spaying), Kevin and Phil Dan (re-building storm damaged infrastructure) – most for a few weeks; some for several months at a time. There are multiple others: truck drivers, the Vet, the TAFE trainers, various Departmental staff members, helicopter pilots, the Elders agents – the list goes on! All of these visitors, to varying degrees, place extra pressure on our kitchen/facilities . . . a patient and accommodating cook is essential!

5.19Kevin and Phil Dan at work re-aligning a storm damaged shed .


Alf deserves special mention. Since 2003, Alf has been coming to Liveringa; initially to run our Artificial Insemination (AI) program. He stays here for several months each year and over his time here has performed AI, pregnancy testing, and semen testing.

These days his focus (and area of expertise) is on the bulls. It is his job to see which ones are “working” and which need culling. Bulls will be culled based on age and semen quality.

Alf (the “bull whisperer” – considered a bit of a legend in these parts) is able to assess a bull’s suitability or effectiveness by doing semen sampling and testicle evaluation.5.20Alf with a bull semen sample.

He takes samples of semen from each of the bulls, then analyses this under the microscope. He is able to rate a bull’s ability to produce calves by observing: evident numbers of sperm in each sample, the level of activity, and most importantly, percentage of abnormal sperm.

He will also take a measurement of the bull’s scrotum – according to Alf, a circumference of around 32cm is deemed optimum for good sperm production.5.21Alf at the microscope in the Liveringa AI shed.

 5.22Woolly (Alf’s offsider for a time) and Alf in with the bulls he deems super quiet due to lots of handling.

5.23Old Liveringa Homestead.

Today Liveringa Station operates out of “Inkata” (about 15 minutes drive from the original Homestead) but the old Homestead remains a valued piece of historical property.

Around 1888 the first homestead, shearing shed, woolshed, storeroom, and kitchen took shape under John McLarty, first Manager of the Kimberley Pastoral Company Ltd.  The main Homestead is situated on a high knoll overlooking a beautiful tree lined billabong, with the huge Fitzroy River floodplain to Mt Wynne in the far distance.

This was once the hub of what was originally a sheep Station. A lot of these old buildings are now being slowly restored by the owner with the assistance of the Heritage Council of Western Australia. The property is also being improved and maintained by caretakers Brad and Mandy.

5.24Brad and Mandy Frost.

We have been caretakers at Old Liveringa Homestead since 10th Aug 2008.

We left home (Hervey Bay Qld) on March 17th 2006 to travel Australia, and then we found the Kimberleys. When we first came to Old Liveringa we thought we would give it six months so we could experience a Wet Season, and here we are five years later and cannot bring ourselves to leave.

We have put in many long hours each day to get it up to where it is today.

It is so rewarding to look from the veranda down to the shearer’s quarters, shearing shed, and workshop and see the beautiful green lawns we have established over the last two years and to see the gardens come to life with some TLC and water.

There is so much history that goes with this beautiful old heritage listed homestead and we love sharing what we have learned with the many visitors that call in for a look around; tourist season can get very busy for us.

Some of the best stories come from the old shearers that come back for a look at the old place where they worked for many years.

 DIGITAL CAMERAOld Liveringa Homestead and surrounding buildings in 2008.

 5.26The Old Homestead during the floods in 2011 – many sheds go under water when the river breaks its banks.

Liveringa Station is a diverse and interesting place. Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the farming side of things with Bev and Barry, Lisa, and Jake . . .

. . . and the boreman (who is still in town getting his back right!) MIGHT be back in time for the bore run . . .