ERROL PARKER | Editor-at-large | Contact
THOUSANDS OF YOUNG country men and women are avoiding the trip home for the holidays this year, says a study commissioned by the National Party of Australia.
This time of year is traditionally quite busy for many farmers around the country, especially grain-growers and sheep graziers.
Yet many sons and daughters from farms and stations around the nation are shunning a hard days work to lead a more hedonistic existence in the big smoke.
Bill Dangerfield, a 61-year-old pastoralist from Wanaaring in far north-west NSW, says that things “aren’t like they used to be”.
“In my day, I’d be getting the Bourke mail train home for the last muster of the year,” says Mr Dangerfield.
“I’d ask the conductor to slow down near the Wanaaring siding and I’d throw my bags off then jump off in to the tall grass,”
“Dad would wait for me at the siding in his Land Rover and we’d be off,”
“I’d be there ’til March slogging it out in the cattle yards and shearing sheds,”
“Nowadays, I can’t even get the kids home for my birthday.”
One of the big draw cards for country kids is Sydney’s festival culture – which has grown dramatically in the last 30 years, from a makeshift underground phenomenon to a booming industry.
What started as a raw and spontaneous rave scene gave rise to the notorious RAT parties of the 80s and 90s, and a swathe of bigger and bolder successors – such as Big Day Out, Vibes on a Summer’s Day, Field Day, and newcomers Subsonic and Falls Fest.
Federal member for Parkes, Mark Coulton, says that it’s important for young country men and women based in big cities to visit home once in a while.
“The number of young people opting out of a life on the land is growing rapidly,” says Mr Coulton.
“These family farms aren’t going to be around for ever, especially if nobody’s there to take them over,”
“One day, they’ll be gone and their family legacy gone with it,”
“Sad to see but it’s true,”
“However, we have music festivals out in the bush like the Elvis festival and the Tamworth show.”
The study concluded that the country youth most likely to stay away from home are the tertiary-educated elite – who’ve grown accustom to a certain lifestyle during their studies.
What the study found was alarming.
Seven out of 10 respondents said that coffee is a contributing factor in them not going home, as “there is no such thing as good coffee” west of Sydney’s Fish Markets.
Also, six out of 10 say that the lack of a seaside in the country is also another big reason why they don’t want to go home.
Disturbingly, three out of 10 country men say that rural centres are “full of bush pigs” and “footy moles” – that big cities offer a more attractive “selection” of young women to court.
Thomas “Tommy” McLane is a 24-year-old agriculture student from West Wyalong who’s chosen to spend the summer university holidays in Sydney with his mates – on the festival circuit.
“Have you ever stood knee deep in barley?” asks Mr McLane.
“It’s the itchiest f**king sh*t on Earth,”
“There wasn’t much of a spring at home so it’s only going under a tonne an acre at home this year – or something like that,”
“I’m pretty sure Dad can handle that on his own – he’s been doing it for 30 years,”
“The truth is I want to get home for Christmas, I just can’t find the time,”
“The missus is putting on a big show at her parents place in Mosman then after that there’s Field Day,”
“So Mum and Dad can’t realistically expect me to drive to [West] Wyalong and back in the same week.” he says.
Contrary to the opinions of his son, father Angus McLane says he’s disappointed that his son “can’t be f**ked” to come home this year.
“I had to get blokes in to help me over harvest,” says Mr. McLane
“I’m getting older now and I can’t be climbing up and down silos at my age – if I fell, it’d kill me,”
“I put Tommy through boarding school during the longest drought on record and he can’t even come home and drive a tipper for his old man for a week or two,”
“His mother did up his room and bought his favourite foods in town – she was heartbroken when he said he wasn’t coming home.”