Our kids have little hands but big hearts

The Land pays homage to our bush kids, the unsung heroes of the drought


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Hamish Finch, 6, helping to muster sheep with his family at Monolon Station, north of White Cliffs. Photo by Laura Finch.

Hamish Finch, 6, helping to muster sheep with his family at Monolon Station, north of White Cliffs. Photo by Laura Finch.

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Jump on board and pay homage to our bush kids, the unsung heroes of this drought.

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A patchwork of cracks line the earth and the dams are empty, but among the dry conditions children quietly toil away.

They are hand feeding stock as dust swirls around them. They are checking and cleaning water troughs.

They are fixing machinery and they are mustering livestock to be loaded onto trucks to sell as the feed runs out.

They are right there by their parent's side helping them get through this prolonged dry.

They are our bush kids, the unsung heroes of this drought with "little hands and big hearts". These kids are far more than just gate openers.

These amazing young people can be found in the most remote corner of the state near Milparinka, they are also in the south on the Hay plains, they are in the heart of NSW and they are battling a green drought on the coast.

And they are waiting for the heavens to open, in fact they are praying for the heavens to open so their farms can thrive again.

Every morning before school hundreds of kids across the state like the Siemer children from Coally and One Tree Station near Milparinka are feeding livestock.

The eldest of the four Jack, 10, and Ned, 8, head out with their father Sam to feed out a mix to the cattle.

They then help make up the mix for the end of the day, which is a combination of grape marc, the grains available at the time, urea, minerals and hay.

While they are there they keep an eye out for any poddy calves. All four Siemer children including Finn, 6, and Archie, 3, took charge to raise more than 200 poddy calves in 2018.

When that's done they check the water troughs and head to school.

In the afternoons depending on what day of the week it is they help feed the sheep.

"We need to help do this otherwise the cattle and sheep will die and it's hard for mum and dad to do it by themselves, we are part of the team," Jack said.

At just 10, Jack knows how reliant his property is on the weather.

"We want rain, the last time we saw proper rain was two years ago, it was wet and it was good," Jack said.

In a normal year (not drought) the Siemer children would just help on water runs and big days of cattle mustering and lamb marking.

But with the prolonged drought they have stepped up to help their parents, who have been feeding for 18 months.

"It's become ground hog day out here," the Siemer boy's mother Tennille said.

"We usually have one to two workers but we haven't had one since early November and the kids have filled the gap. They have taken on so much responsibility."

An emotional Mrs Siemer said she would love it if they could just run around like their town mates.

"I can't explain how proud we are of them, it makes me a bit emotional talking about it," she said.

"They never whinge, you are twisted with guilt they have to do so much but they know it's part of life here and they get on with it.

"One of the heart breaking things is if stock die the kids feel it now more than ever because they are so involved.

"But by going through this, they have become resilient. They will definitely grow up hard working kids."

The Siemers are not alone. This is the same story being played out across the state.

Laura Finch and her her husband Luke run Monolon Station an hour north of White Cliffs with their three children Stella, 12, Harrison, 10, and Hamish, 6, who do all their school through Broken Hill School of the Air and Dubbo Distance Education.

"Our children are known to my husband and I as the A team," Mrs Finch said.

Check out The Land's front page tomorrow, make sure you pick up a copy.

Check out The Land's front page tomorrow, make sure you pick up a copy.

The Finchs started feeding in April 2017 and have been full time feeding since June that year.

"We wouldn't be able to be still doing what we do today without them," Mrs Finch said.

We wouldn't be able to be still doing what we do today without them - Laura Finch

"They have been nothing short of troopers in this drought. They have never once complained, even when asked to draft a mob of sheep in 47 degrees, they will be first out the door.

"They all know what needs to happen to get things done, like if we are mustering tomorrow, they will have their motorbikes ready the night before all filled up ready to go.

"I have actually at times have had to stop and pinch myself, to remind myself these three members of the A team are kids."

The Isolated Children's Parents' Association NSW (ICPA) had its 47th conference in Buronga recently, with president Claire Butler saying they heard first-hand stories from families within their community about how they were coping in the drought.

"It was emotional hearing about their challenges, a few tears were shed as we are all going through it ourselves," Mrs Butler said.

She said many families were facing situations where they could not afford governesses and so mum was taking on the role again.

"There is more pressure for helpers in the paddocks so children are going out to help as they want to be part of it," she said.

"There are old heads on young shoulders and they are coping with it, they are resilient children and they know this drought is a big deal."

Mrs Butler said the ICPA message to those kids was that they are proud of them.

Archie Siemer, 3, helped his three brothers raise more than 200 poddy calves in 2018. Photo by Tennille Siemer.

Archie Siemer, 3, helped his three brothers raise more than 200 poddy calves in 2018. Photo by Tennille Siemer.

"It's certainly not something that is expected of them but they are stepping up to the mark and are making a difference, they are the reason why we are farming so we can hand it down to the next generation," she said.

"The way they are getting out there is something to admire."

NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said at a time of crippling drought, youngsters on the land were valiantly stepping up to support their parents to help keep their farming operations up and running.

"Their resilience, resolve and family spirit typifies some of the most wonderful attributes of our farming communities," Mr Marshall said.

"With the display we've seen from our youngsters on the land I think we can confidently say the future of our farming communities is bright."

NSW Farmers' president James Jackson echoed those sentiments saying it was all 'hands on deck' in this drought on family farms.

"These kids should be admired for turning up and helping out," Mr Jackson said.

Back on the station, Mrs Finch sums it up quite simply: "all these kids of the bush are unsung heroes, little heroes with big hearts that have no idea what they are doing to make all parents out there so proud."

"I can guarantee every mum and dad out here are so bloody proud of them, tell them everyday that we are so proud of them and they will always know (even in years to come) they are what made us survive this bloody drought.

"So to all you little ripper bush kids out there, THANKYOU." No truer words could have be spoken.

Stella Finch, 12, taking a smoko break from mustering under the plane wing. Photo by Laura Finch.

Stella Finch, 12, taking a smoko break from mustering under the plane wing. Photo by Laura Finch.

  • A shout out to Tennille Siemer from Coally Station who took the amazing photo of her son Jack Siemer that is on The Land's front cover.
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