GAP YEARS: Emma Moss loves her job working on Pardoo Station in the Pilbara.
GAP YEARS: Emma Moss loves her job working on Pardoo Station in the Pilbara. Jacob Dunn

Life on a station: 18-year-old's incredible journey

EMMA Moss can easily rattle off a list of skills she has picked up while working in the Kimberley and Pilbara.

The station hand has worked cattle, shod horses, repaired fences, serviced vehicles, helped build a veranda and even plumbed a toilet.

"I have basically learnt how to be a handyman," she joked.

She also picked up some valuable life lessons: that it's okay to make mistakes, that she thrives on a challenge, and, if you chose to ride a heifer at the Fitzroy Rodeo be prepared for your good jeans to get ripped.

The vibrant young woman is making sure the two-year deferral of her university studies is not wasted, spending her time working in the northern beef industry.

Nerrima Station in the Kimberley was her home last year, and this year she is working in a stock camp on Pardoo Station in the Pilbara, a cattle property about an hour-and-half drive away from Port Hedland.

In the spirit of learning new things, one of Emma's most prized new skills is mastering the art of photography.

While working on Nerrima, she bought a second-hand Canon 700D from the station's cook.

The cook, who taught her a few tips and tricks, happens to be Dan McIntosh, the published photographer behind the Facebook sensation, Station Photos - a site with 120,000 followers.

In September last year Emma started her own Instagram site, Life_on_a_Station, which now has about 5000 followers.

Last week, while she was having a few days off in Broome with her family, Emma caught up with the Rural Weekly to share some of her favourite pictures and talked through the highs and lows of her transition from a Toowoomba schoolgirl to a top-end ringer.

BOLD CHANGE

When Emma was about 13 she made it her goal to work on a station.

"It was just something I always thought I would try after school," she said.

"So I finished school in 2015, and started on Nerrima Station in March the next year. The drive north was 5500km from home."

Moving from a 100-acre sheep property outside Toowoomba to the wide-open spaces of the remote Kimberley was quite a shock.

Emma describes it as being "wild"; but she means that in the best sense of the word, as she feels the outback is an untouched and beautiful place.

"Everything was just on such a larger scale," she said.

"That was a big shock for me at Nerrima, you know. You would do a muster and there would be 600-700 breeders in the mob, plus all of the calves and bulls.

"And there were helicopters in the sky... and because I hadn't had much to do with cattle before I faced an extra challenge of learning that."

The hard, and often fast-paced work, quickly got under her skin.

"I just loved it," she said.

"What I love about the job is there isn't a day that goes by that I don't have to push myself or challenge myself.

"I think that's critical.

"I mean it was really hard at the start, I don't think it would be easy for anyone who has just left school, but I have learnt to make mistakes, well, I learned that it's okay to make mistakes. You will stuff up. But that's okay."

OUTBACK LIFESTYLE

The stockcamp on Pardoo has an even mix of men and women.

"They actually find it harder up here to find boys to work than girls," she said.

Her co-workers have become her mates, and rodeos and campdrafts are now her favourite social events.

"On the stations up here, if you don't get to take much time off throughout the year, you will get to take time off to go the rodeos," she said.

"That's when everyone lets their hair down.

"So everyone will go and campdraft or rodeo, and if they don't go for that, they will be fairly strong supporters at the bar."

This year Emma has two handy plant horses, Beanie and Mistletoe, that she will compete with in campdrafting.

"They are both pretty special horses," she said.

"I think they will go well for me."

Last year Emma had a crack at riding the rough stock, entering in the heifer ride at the Fitzroy Crossing Rodeo.

"It was much to Mum's shock," she laughed.

"I went alright. Well, I did rip my jeans open and had few bruises from being stepped on.

"I decided being on the other end of the camera was better for me."

Rodeo time is now photography time for Emma.

"I like taking the action shots," she said.

"Even just getting photos of people behind the chutes, or just people laughing and having a good time is a lot of fun."

LIFE ON A STATION

The best thing about running the Life On a Station Instagram page is that Emma gets to promote Australian agriculture - something she is passionate about.

With a mother (Sarah Moss) who has worked on stations in the past, and a father (Ian Moss) who is an agronomist, supporting Aussie farmers has always been instilled in Emma.

"I guess growing up in Toowoomba, agriculture was such a passion of my family's, but on the other hand I knew people who thought eggs came from the fridge in Woollies," she said.

"I think there is a gap in the understanding of where our food comes from."

Often Emma will get messages through her site from people asking about station work, which she is always happy to chat about.

Her pictures range from glorious sunsets, to close-up shots of dusty boots in stirrups.

"I like the more natural shots," she said.

"I don't want to say to someone, you know, go hold a saddle and smile at the camera.

"I like the photos of people smiling when they are doing what we actually do during the day out here."

Nowadays, Emma carries her camera with her as much as she can.

"It is hard to carry it at times," she said.

"But I can take it on bore runs and when we are fencing.

"The moments you want to have it the most is normally when you can't really carry it with you.

"That's when it's hectic cattle work and the helicopters are doing their work and everyone is galloping after cattle - that's when I want to be taking photos."

Emma has learnt to ride one handed, so her free hand can "hold onto her camera for dear life", however, she only takes it with her when she knows the work will be steady.

First muster of the season. Photo by Dan Macintosh

A post shared by Life On A Station (@life_on_a_station) on

AG FUTURE

Next year Emma hopes to start a degree in agribusiness and sustainable farming.

Before she starts her course she will finish her year on Pardoo and then head to Africa for a holiday. The trip will be a great break and will give her a chance to expand her photography skills.

It's easy to tell that it will be a sad day for Emma when she leaves Western Australia.

"Up here, everyone just seems to be on the same wavelength," she said.

"Everyone is so down to earth and they are all down for a good time and down to go to the pub."

While she is keen to tackle the next adventure, she knows she will miss her role on the land.

"I love mustering," she said.

"There are so many times when we are walking cattle out and I will be on the wing, and the sun will be setting, the sky will be 50 different shades and I am surrounded by amazing people and riding a horse I have finally learnt how to deal with, and I think to myself 'I get paid for this?'."

To see more of Emma's photos, click here



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