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Thursday, 7 October  2004  Cattle Drive

A cattle drive is when large groups of cattle are moved from one place to another. This cattle drive has another purpose.

PETER McCUTCHEON: North-western Queensland in mid-winter, and the stock routes are busy as drovers bring their cattle south to market.

But this particular cattle drive, covering nearly 500km from Julia Creek to Longreach, is by no means typical.

The young stockmen, or ringers as they're commonly known, are all young Aborigines from some of the most disadvantaged communities in Australia, taking part in an ambitious program to tackle chronic unemployment.

GLEN WILLETTS: There's probably a generation of people that are lost in the work area back out there and you've sort of got to try and grab it now before there's another generation lost.

FATHER MICK LOWCOCK: This is one way to highlight not only the need for Indigenous people to be employed but to show they are employable.

PETER McCUTCHEON: These teenagers and young men from the lower Gulf region have been getting up well before dawn to learn the disciplines of work and life on the road.

GLEN WILLETTS: First couple of mornings is pretty slow. You start on them about 4:30, you might get them up by 6:00. But then as the days go by, they get earlier and earlier.

PETER McCUTCHEON: What's it like getting out of your swag before dawn?

ZANE DOUGLAS: Oh, it's not worth it just laying around, you know. Just get straight up.

PETER McCUTCHEON: The ringers were nominated by the three Indigenous-owned cattle stations in the Gulf that also supplied the 1,200 steers for droving.

Three groups of 12 young men have spent a fortnight each on this epic drive.

And, indeed, as the herd made its way south, many pastoralists were impressed enough by the skills of these young apprentices to offer some of them a job.

GLEN WILLETTS: Every station we've come to they've said that they can't get blokes out in the bush anymore, they can't get ringers, you know.

And there were places along the route that said they'd put a few blokes on straightaway.

PETER McCUTCHEON: What do you think you'll get out of this?

ZANE DOUGLAS: Oh, probably like, probably motivate you more, like help you find a job somewhere else, get you up in the morning and stuff.

PETER McCUTCHEON: Zane Douglas impressed organisers so much, they asked him to stay on a further two weeks.

GLEN WILLETTS: I suppose you could say that we're like a family and they feel secure around us and they come out and they see this country and the opportunities out a bit further than their boundaries.

PETER McCUTCHEON: It literally opens a whole new world for them?

GLEN WILLETTS: Yeah, definitely.

And that's one thing we're trying to push on to the boys, you know - don't think that your backyard is as far as you can go.

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English Bites - Cattle Drive
story notes

stock routes
Stock are large, farmed animals. Here, the stock are cattle. Stock routes are the paths the cattle are driven along.

people who drive cattle

Cattle are cows and bulls, farmed for their meat or milk.

cattle drive
A drive is when you move animals along.

On the cattle drive, they move cows and bulls, on foot, from one place to another.

stockmen, or ringers
Stockmen are the men who look after stock or the animals on a farm.

The stockmen are also called ringers.

lack of paid work

The word employ is the subject of today's spotlight.


owned by Aboriginal people

very large Australian farms

the Gulf
The Gulf here means the Gulf of Carpentaria.

The area of land around the Gulf is known as the ‘gulf country’.

castrated male cattle



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