“Long hair on the male is frowned on in the bush”

“Get on good terms with the lady of the house, grab a tea towel and help with the washing up”.

“Your employer will not expect you to be experienced and will allow time to toughen up”.

“Long hair on the male is frowned on in the bush”.

Browse through Frank Mansell’s Information Leaflet and chuckle at parts that seem quaint today but overall would provide just as sound advice to a young man in 2017.

This advice is among twenty three sections over eight pages comprising the “General Information Leaflet for Nominees of the Big Brother Movement”. I wonder how diligently those of us that went to rural employers followed the advice.

On the one hand, the discipline of boarding school ensured I was ‘house trained’ but complying with BBM directives to complete reports, consult with them before terminating employment and avoiding negative commentary in letters home seemed to have escaped me.

My travel document provided the following instructions.

“You will catch the 9.45 pm train from Central on Sunday 15th [December 1963] and alight at Armidale. You will be met by employer’s name.”

I do not recall any advice on preparing for the train journey which turned out to be 14 hours in the compartment of a carriage without a corridor. The train, of course, was not air conditioned and the open window provided some ‘fresh air’ on the hot night. I use the term ‘fresh’ with tongue firmly planted in cheek as the smuts and distinctive smell of the steam engine were a constant companion.

I have little recollection of stations that we stopped at but do not recall any opportunities to buy food or drink. I had not brought any refreshments but a family of Southern European immigrants shared my compartment and despite speaking no English gestured that I should share their food. My saviors.

Contrary to the travelling instructions, my future employer was not there to meet me. Instead the mail car driver, who obviously picked out the young Pom, grabbed my suitcase and informed me he would drop me at the property. The mail car was a Peugeot station wagon with three rows of seats. I shared the back row with a guy that had clearly taken the edge of his sobriety. The middle row was occupied by two nuns and my seat companion kept telling me they were the ‘salt of the earth.’

Several hours later, after frequent stops at properties to deliver mail and enjoy the obligatory cuppa and fruit cake I was delivered with no ceremony. My new employer had no interest in the travel tales of this seventeen year old. Instead I was shown my quarters, shared with another jackeroo, fed and told to be up at 5.30 to chop wood and milk the cow. My quarters was a fibro shed just large enough for 2 single beds and a chest of drawers.

Following breakfast on day 1 I was provided with a stock horse and we proceeded to muster sheep. My protestations about never having ridden a horse before did not prompt any ‘on the job training’ instead I was told to just hang on as the horse knows what to do.

‘Duty of Care’, ‘O.H. & S’., ‘Training’ etc. did not feature on these rural properties but hey I and many Little Brothers like me not only survived but went on to build solid foundations in Australia and enjoy a good life here.


Article written by Dick Steell – FAIRSEA – 1963

8th February, 2017

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