Backpackers find a love for cattle station life, and a lifestyle reset, in outback Queensland

backpackers find a love for cattle station life, and a lifestyle reset, in outback queensland

Munich-based Lucia Lang says living in a cattle station camp has been a chance for a digital detox. (ABC North West Qld: Meghan Dansie)

Kim Wichertjes' hat rarely leaves her head.

Splotched with red dirt and sweat, its wide brim bears the marks of a true Australian stockwoman.

It is a reminder of a deal struck with her first boss in the Australian bush — a week's work cleaning out the old homestead restaurant for his hat — her own piece of Australian outback outfitting.

Born in a rural area of the Netherlands, Ms Wichertjes moved to Australia last year with a working holiday visa and a long-held dream.

"About seven years ago I had a dream about being a cowgirl. It wasn't really realistic yet, but then four years ago I started riding horses again and my little dream was a bit realistic again," she said.

"I started building that dream up and all of a sudden it came true."

She found a job as a station hand at a vast cattle station near Cloncurry, in outback western Queensland, mustering on horseback, branding cattle, and fixing fences for five months before returning home to the Netherlands.

When Argylla Station owner Ian Campbell reached out to her earlier this year about the possibility of flying her back to Australia for a second stint in a promoted position, Ms Wichertjes didn't hesitate.

"The second year I came here I touched down on the airway and it was just like a weight just came off. It was unreal to be back," she said.

"There's so much you learn from just being here. It's such a freeing way of living."

Digital detox and new skills

Munich-based Lucia Lang is a more recent addition to the station, moving from her job as a yoga teacher in Bondi a month ago to complete the 88-days of specified work required to extend her visa.

It's been a bit of adjustment for the vegetarian surfer, but one that's been worthwhile.

"My dad always had the dream of riding a horse in the outback and chasing cattle, so now I'm chasing his dream", Ms Lang said.

"It's good for me but I had to learn a lot. We're living in a camp and we don't have any electricity — so a little bit of a social media detox."

Ms Lang said outback life has given her more perspective, and it's something other young people could benefit from.

"Normally when you're back home you have a lot of time to think about not really important stuff, like 'oh am I fat?' or something like that, and here it doesn't matter," she said.

"Everyone is the same as long as we do a good job."

It's a sense of empowerment and honest work, says Kim Wichertjes, that she's surprised more young Australians aren't taking the opportunity to experience.

"Even my boss says not a lot of Aussie people want to be working in the outback nowadays, which is obviously a shame, because it's really good work and you learn a lot," she said.

"But [that's] good for me because I've got a job."

Reputation and respect keeps workers

Changes to visa requirements from July 1 for British backpackers will remove the 88-day requirement of specified work that prompts many to head out to the bush.

Rick Britton, a property owner and Mayor of Boulia Shire Council — a western Queensland region of tiny towns, giant cattle stations, and desert — said working holiday makers are essential to keeping outback communities functioning.

He said that's why reputation is everything.

"We struggle to get workforce out in western Queensland, and if they're coming out here and having a great experience they tell others and it gives you a flow of these people," he said.

"They really get involved. It all comes back to work ethic, and a community will grab hold of that and embrace that."

Ms Wichertjes said it's all about getting over the fear of having no idea what you're doing.

"A lot of people get scared about not knowing what they're doing. But I didn't know what I was doing in the beginning either," she said.

"You just have to give it a shot."

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