"Being the only woman on these musters, I often had to set the men straight right at the start!"

The story of Robyn’s hands

I grew up on a cattle farm in outback QLD. So from early on in life, I could drive trucks, pull tits (milk cows), and ride a horse. I was the eldest of six kids, but my mum never liked me because I always spoke my mind – she always told me that young ladies shouldn’t do that. F*k that!

I left school at 15 – I hated it. I worked for a while doing laundry and shop work for about nine months - I hated that too and finally told the boss to shove his handkerchiefs! I ended up mustering cattle, and loved it.

I got married when I was 18 to a real mongrel (although he was alright at the time). I was with him for 13 years. l left him because he used to use me as a punching bag when he'd been drinking. He used to go up north for weeks at a time and I wouldn't hear from him - I found out he had another woman. I had 5 kids with him and I did everything for those kids. They were aged from 13 to 2 years old when I left. The kids stayed with him and l haven't seen them since. They rang me later on when they were older, but all they wanted was money.

After I left, I used to go out mustering cattle. We used to camp out in the bush for weeks at a time along the NSW stock routes. I loved it - the open space, the hard work, and not being around too many people. Being the only woman on these musters, I often had to set the men straight right at the start. I used to say that if there was any funny business, they would end up 2 pounds lighter. They often weren't sure what that meant until they saw me castrating the bulls! l stayed out with the cattle until I got diagnosed with asthma, and then emphysema (too much smoking and drinking took its toll).

I sold everything when I continued to have lung issues. In 2012, l got diagnosed with a neuropathy and now my hands don't work the way they should. But you can’t complain. You just have to get on with it.

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Dione Brockwell