Outback 8 Television Programme – ABC 3

Unfortunately, quite often I am contacted by people desperately looking for rural experience for a teenager.  I say unfortunately, because very often these are parents (mostly mothers) who are very worried about a son whose formal education is not going well.  Sometimes I am contacted by other relatives (eg a grandparent) and sometimes by someone in the police force, going way beyond the call of duty, trying to help someone get back onto the straight and narrow.

Where to send these desperate enquirers for advice?  They come from all over Australia and even other countries (U.S.A, Canada and England, for example).  Of course rural businesses are just like any other small business – most owners/managers are flat out carving out a living in what is not an easy business, and they simply don’t have the necessary time or resources to employ kids who are more likely to need extra assistance and supervision, and more likely to have an attitude problem.  And ultimately, if the teenager is not self-motivated to a reasonable degree, then it doesn’t matter how motivated the concerned parent is – all the help in the world is more likely to be of no use.   That said – very often it is the kids with an over abundance of energy, who like doing rather than sitting around listening, that have a disastrous time at school but take to rural employment like ducks to water.

There are some programmes to assist indigenous kids start a career in the rural industry  but as far as I know, there’s no programmes to help the non-indigenous.

‘Outback 8’ was originally screened on Channel 10 and it is being re-run on ABC 3 (kids channel) at present – weeknights at 6.30pm.  As I’m working then I haven’t seen every episode but what I have is impressive (especially since I very rarely watch ‘reality’ shows).  I wish there were intensive, short-term training programmes like what is shown on Outback 8 running all year round in every state (and territory) in Australia.  It’s an ideal way for kids to test out a career handling livestock.  Four of the kids in ‘Outback 8’ were from the U.K. and the other four from various parts of Australia – and all are from diverse backgrounds and with diverse interests – from boxing to violin playing and surfing.  They are aged from 12 to 14.   Sulky attitudes and can’t-do beliefs are slowly overcome by impressively patient and skilled instructors – Ingrid O’Neill (a horsewoman from a property near Richmond, north Qld) and Dave Manchon (from the Gold Coast – a journalist, surfer and horseman with the lead role in the Australian Outback Spectacular).   The four weeks of training filmed in ‘Outback 8’ took place at the Longreach Pastoral College.  These young teenagers learned to ride and look after horses, and muster sheep and cattle and work them in the yards.  Above all they learned to work as a team, get along with others, and to never give up.

If only there was a training programme like this to recommend to worried parents!  It wouldn’t be cheap to run, but infinitely cheaper for taxpayers than picking up the pieces later, when kids have run amok after years of not fitting in at school.

This television programme has no doubt inspired a swag of young teenagers to head bush as soon as they are old enough.  Decades ago many of the older generation commenced work on cattle stations when they were 14 (usually because school didn’t agree with them, or due to family circumstances – formal education was a luxury they couldn’t afford), however these days most rural employers don’t employ school leavers until they are at least 16 (for work place health & safety reasons, etc).  Quite a few places are prepared to take keen students on for a few weeks of work experience, and pastoral companies employ large numbers of unskilled staff at the commencement of every dry season (usually before Easter).  And of course there are quite a few agricultural colleges spread across regional areas of Australia.  Most specialise in specific avenues of agriculture which relate to the primary production activity taking place in the particular region.  For example, Burdekin Ag. College has concentrated on farming (in particular cane farming and tropical horticulture) whereas Longreach Pastoral College has been known for concentrating on horsemanship, sheep and cattle handling.

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