Host: Dampier Downs Station
Written by Anne Marie Huey – Station Manager, Dampier Downs.
Hi, my name is Anne Marie and I will be talking about life at Dampier Downs, a 665,000 hectare cattle station in the Kimberley. Those of you who have been following Central Station for a while may remember Jane, Emma, and Peta who also wrote about Dampier Downs. Well, Jane is my sister-in-law and while she was born and bred to the station life, I took a more circuitous route to get here.
I grew up outside a small town in Queensland. While my father’s family had been involved in the pastoral industry for generations, my father made the decision to move closer to ‘civilisation’ when my sisters and I reached school age. We still had a few thousand acres and a couple of hundred cows (in the good years), but growing up for me was a very different experience to that of true outback kids. I had a school bus that ran past my front door every morning, was able to have a part time job in the local supermarket after school – I even had mains power. One thing I didn’t have, though, was a clear idea of what I wanted to do once I left school.
As a result, I drifted into the mining industry and spent the next few years working as a lab technician. Eventually, I had enough money to travel, so I started working my way around Australia trying my hand at a variety of roles in tourism and hospitality. About half way round (the Barossa Valley I think it was), I made the decision to head overseas. I worked as a nanny in England and tour guide in Africa. I trekked in Nepal and ate the best Chinese dumplings ever in Taiwan. I admired the beauty of the Taj Mahal and explored ancient Roman ruins in the Middle East. Eventually, in my late twenties I made my way back to Australia, flat broke and still no idea what to do with myself. The mining industry beckoned and it was back to fly-in fly-out for me.
It was while doing a night shift on my 30th birthday that I made the decision. Sure, the money was good and I was enjoying the life style, but I had no passion for my job. I really didn’t care what percentage of copper was in this little pile of dirt in front of me, and I knew I didn’t want to spend the next 30 years of my life the same way. The next day, straight after my shift I googled university courses – it was time to change.
Just over three years later, armed with a degree in Natural Resource Management, I found myself working at the Katherine Research Station in the Northern Territory. I had a great job and it was possibly the best education I could ever have gained.
One of my first jobs was counting grass. While at times this was just about as exciting as it sounds, it gave me an excellent understanding of all the different species of plants that are out there in the paddock, which ones are good, which ones not so much and how the landscape can really tell you what is going on if you are only prepared to read it’s story.
I was also involved in a lot of the trial work involving cattle. One day I would be helping to muster the Research Station, the next I would be pregnancy testing all the cows and then analysing the data to see what was going on in the herd. I was also exposed to some of the best and brightest researchers and extension officers in the country. It was an invaluable experience and I would not be where I am today without it.
After a few years, however, my feet were once again itchy and the lure of the Kimberley was too strong to resist. It was a part of Australia I had always wanted to see and, as my life motto up to this point was ‘Why just see it when you can live it?’ it was the most natural thing in the world for me to apply for a job, which I subsequently got.
Not long after, I met Mike and the rest, as they say, is history. While I still intend to take regular exotic holidays (Antarctica anyone?) my nomadic days of wandering the world wondering where the next adventure lies are over. The next adventure is right here, at the end of 110 kilometres of dirt road, where the desert and the Kimberley meet.
Care to discover it with me?
P.S. If anyone has any questions please post them on the Central Station Facebook page and I will do my best to answer them.