Sunday 1 June 2008

Child labour

I've been raiding the archives this week.  Here is a photo from around 1979, with me being put to work on a sheep station north of Geraldton.  At that age, it took 2 of us to close a cocky gate.  The station was about the size of Wales.  Not a good place to get lost.

Note the shorts - very 1970's.  That's a few thousand sheep in the background - it was shearing time, and I spent two weeks mustering on a motor bike in searing heat, or dragging sheep around the yards or the shearing shed (also note the lack of hats and sunscreen of any sort).  This is where I learnt to throw a fleece, clean the daggy bits off, stuff it into a baling press, press wool bales and roll them down the shed using a baling hook (the kind of thing pirates wave around).

I also learnt how to throw a dead, green and rotting sheep onto a fire (very carefully), and how not to ride a motor bike around bore drains (I still have a burn scar on my leg from where the bike went out from underneath me and my leg landed on the hot exhaust).  This was real school of the air territory, and most (if not all) of the stockmen were Aboriginal.  

This is me lighting the hot water boiler for the homestead.  We lived on powdered milk and damper and home killed sheep.  Definitely mutton.  Roos and goats were shot on sight.  I also learnt to drive (at age 12) on a gravel air strip in a Series II Landrover with no roof.  

Again, note the shorts and the lack of safety footwear.  I can't remember how much I was paid for this two week stint, but I think it was probably around $50 after food and board were deducted.  A fortune to a 12 year old who was used to pocketmoney of 50 cents a week.

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