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Boarding school versus life lessons from home

ON THE JOB: Lindsay Brown, 21, loads cattle on a property at Hughenden to be trucked to a New South Wales feedlot. Like many kids from the bush, Lindsay helped out at home between terms away at boarding school.
ON THE JOB: Lindsay Brown, 21, loads cattle on a property at Hughenden to be trucked to a New South Wales feedlot. Like many kids from the bush, Lindsay helped out at home between terms away at boarding school. Jenny Underwood

SPARE a thought this week for the bush kids who have had to swap their work boots for school shoes, their worn jeans for a school uniform and their old trusty Akubra hat for a panama.

Many of these kids do not get to go home for 9-10 weeks and for some, if they are very remote, it can be even longer.

Boarding away from home is a fact of life for many rural kids.

Learning to adapt to this quite foreign environment can be quite a challenge.

Many bush kids have had to learn to act and think like an adult as they work alongside their parents while home on school holidays.

Often these kids shoulder responsibilities and workloads that make them grow wise beyond their tender years.

There are many bush kids who may only be in high school but when at home would be responsible for operating large machinery, or being a main participant in a mustering team or even having the responsibility of doing a bore run and keeping motors going.

Some of these kids would spend the school holidays breaking in and training horses or working with cattle or sheep.

Many times these kids have to go and shoot animals that need putting down as part of animal welfare management or eradicating declared pests, for instance pigs, foxes and cats.

These activities would seem very normal to a bush kid, but to an outsider, it might be perceived as a lot of responsibility for such youthful shoulders.

This is an interesting transition for these bush kids to go from being treated as nearly an equal in an adult working world, to then returning to a very formal and regimented existence at school where they are considered merely a child.

Sometimes bush kids chafe under this enforced change in their circumstances, and find school a very difficult place, pining for the bush.

Others embrace the differences and throw themselves into all of the varied activities that school life offers.

It is a well-established fact that environment shapes a person's character.

The bush, by nature, is quite a hard taskmaster.

The facts of life are not hidden.

The life and death cycle is part of every day.

Kids are taught how to be nurturing by tending to the usual menagerie of poddy animals that inevitably require hand-raising.

They are taught toughness and common sense by working with stock in all the necessary capacity that station life demands.

A bush kid has the advantage of learning resilience, problem solving, tenacity and common sense.

All of these skills bush kids take with them into their working life.

Many kids from the bush have gone on to impact the world in their chosen field, and if asked they often would cite their bush upbringing as the main factor that enabled them to become successful.

The bush is still the best environment to rear our kids, and the ultimate goal would be that these kids would then come back and make their mark in agriculture as adults, sharing their skills with the next generation.

Surely the bush life is worth preserving.

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