Reporters on the Job

Are You Jackaroo Material? Some months back, contributor Nick Squires visited a "jackaroo" (Australian for cowboy) school at the Leconfield Station in New South Wales. There he met young people who were game to learn the skills needed to survive and thrive on a large station, or ranch. "Most were young Australian kids fresh out of school," Nick says. "Some are city slickers, some are from the country." The group, he says, was almost evenly divided between men and women.

Nick speculates that some were inspired by images a couple of years ago of Britain's Prince Harry working briefly as a jackaroo on a station. But if that was the case, they were in for a rude awakening. Going to jackaroo school is not exactly the same as visiting a dude ranch for a few days, after all. "It's a proper working farm for those who want to break into the industry. The atmosphere is all quite Spartan - they stay in dorm-type accommodations, and they're up very early each morning to muster cattle and learn all the other skills you need to work the land," he says.

Students spend hours a day in the saddle. "By the end of the day, people are very tired, and pack away mountains of food because they've been out all day," he says.

The upside, Nick notes, is that many candidates find it an exciting way to make a living. "The young people would have to be in it for that: they earn very little, and live on ranches that may be more than 300 miles from the nearest settlement. There's a lot of competition for workers. At the same time, people will say it's a lifestyle thing, that's why they're doing it. They want to be out in the bush and the open."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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