A couple running a remote station say dealing with the pandemic will have a financial and social impact, but they are staying positive.
A couple running a remote station say dealing with the pandemic will have a financial and social impact, but they are staying positive.

‘This is not tough going’: Rural family take on virus

Liz and Barry Miller from Glass Hut Station were born and bred in the bush and know how to face adversity.

Having recently gone through seven years of drought, COVID-19 is just another hurdle that they will overcome.

On the property they have one employee, Mr Miller's mum Shirley also lives there and their married daughter Vicki Pugh who lives nearby and comes over each day with her 13-month-old son Hayes to help with chores and work on her photography business.

Wedding photographer Vicki Pugh with her son Hayes, 13 months, with Rhondhu Spark n Spinifex at her parent's property Grass Hut station. Picture: Evan Morgan
Wedding photographer Vicki Pugh with her son Hayes, 13 months, with Rhondhu Spark n Spinifex at her parent's property Grass Hut station. Picture: Evan Morgan

Their 800 hectare property is 110km southwest from Townsville on the Burdekin Falls Dam Road near the historic goldmining town of Ravenswood.

At this time of year the road is normally bustling with grey nomads and other tourists either staying at the station's caravan park or heading to see the picturesque mining town.

But in the midst of the virus threat the only traffic visible on the road were essential trucks and a few locals.

But Mrs Miller said although they were facing hard times they would prevail.

"This is not tough going for a property although the income loss will be tough," Mrs Miller said.

"We have gone through seven years of drought here and it proper knocked us around.

"There were also those floods last year that went through, partially out west around Julia

Creek that made a significant impact to them, not just financially but mentally and physically."

 

Liz Miller, who lives at Grass Hut Station (pictured), said the pandemic would affect the rural industry financially. Picture: Evan Morgan
Liz Miller, who lives at Grass Hut Station (pictured), said the pandemic would affect the rural industry financially. Picture: Evan Morgan

 

She said the pandemic would affect the rural industry financially, have a small social impact but would not make a major difference.

"If you didn't turn the TV on you would not know life was any different."

Like many small properties in the region the Millers combine several businesses to make a living and these had been affected by COVID-19.

Apart from the property's now empty caravan park they run cattle, have a horse stud and Mr Miller subcontracts to take cattle to Townsville Port for live export.

"On each front it has affected us in a different way.

"We were just about to start selling cattle two to three weeks ago but market got tighter and the prices started sliding at the Emerald and the Charters Towers sale yards.

"We then went to get cattle into the meat works and normally you have to wait a month or so at this time of the year but we have been told they have been booked out to July now.

"So when we thought we would be having an income coming from cattle sales in the next couple of weeks it could three or four months before we get anything sold.

The Millers have been operating a successful horse stud for 35 years and are keen participants in campdrafting.

 

Liz Miller at Grass Hut Station with Rhondu Smart as Hell. Picture: Evan Morgan
Liz Miller at Grass Hut Station with Rhondu Smart as Hell. Picture: Evan Morgan

 

They have targeted this sport as a market for their horses and have sold them to all parts of Australia.

But the cancellation of campdrafting and rodeo events has seen their horse sales come to a grinding halt.

"On our horses we have been 100 per cent inconvenienced," Mrs Miller said.

"We had horses nominated for a horse sale in Charters Towers at the end of May but that has been deferred."

She said with all the events being cancelled prospective clients had put off buying a campdrafting horse until next season.

But she said despite the financial hardship there was still plenty of work to do on their property.

"A lot of the things we do here we can still keep doing without digging down into our bank account," she said.

"My husband says if anyone on a cattle property says they're bored then they need to look around, because there is so much to do.

"You need to fix fences, clean out troughs and clean tanks.

"A lot of properties have got wire in their salvage yard, they have got the tools to go and keep doing things such as branding calves.

"We have to keep doing these tasks as there is no way any of these industries in the primary sector will come out of this if they don't continue to getting on with their everyday chores."

She said people living on a rural property were used to being in isolation.

"For us to go a month or six weeks without going to town, that's easy. We regularly shop every two, three or four weeks and the more remote you are the less regular those shops trips would be."

Like many from the bush the Millers have been brought up to be resilient.

"I don't think you can educate someone to be resilient who has never been exposed to what we have been. We have grown up with this.

"My grandson, he is going to learn from age one how to be resilient."

 

Like many from the bush, the Millers have been taught to be resilient. Young Hayes, 13 months, will be no different. Picture: Evan Morgan
Like many from the bush, the Millers have been taught to be resilient. Young Hayes, 13 months, will be no different. Picture: Evan Morgan

 

But she said those living in large towns and cities would learn to cope with self-isolation.

"I think they will educate themselves over the next few months that they can cook their own meals, they can go shopping once a month."

She also said those new to self-isolation had to become resourceful.

"They need to find plan B and if that is not working then find plan C, as that's how we operate in the bush.

"If you go to fix a windmill and find you have the wrong part and its Sunday and you can't get to town so what is plan B because we need water in the trough.

"You find another way to fix the windmill."

Mrs Miller said people should try and stay positive and seen the good in the current situation.

"They can now spend more time with their children and their family, do some work to their home and their backyard."

"If we stick it out then we will make it through. The sun will come out, it might not come out in the same place but it will come up."

Originally published as 'This is not tough going': Rural family take on virus


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