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ABC News 24 1pm News (w'end) -

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Hello. I'm Kerry Staight. First up today, Shearers are renowned
for their ability to work and their capacity to eat, so feeding a whole group of them is one of the more challenging
catering jobs, but Dick and Cheryl Duggan
do it with ease. For almost half a century, they've
been feeding ravenous shearing teams, making up to 100 meals a day, often in primitive kitchens
and remote regions. Tim Lee reports
on this remarkable couple. (DOG BARKS)

For sheer hard work,
few jobs come close to shearing, and there are few trades
where you work up such an appetite.

WOMAN: It astounds me even
still sometimes, 'cause you'll get people that can't fill up.

WOMAN: The boys, of course, they're
burning it up quicker than anything.

I think a day's shearing is something like playing
three AFL matches in a day, so, yeah, they burn through
the calories pretty quick.

MAN: It's not like other jobs, no. You've just gotta have
that fuel in you, but. Yeah. (DOG BARKS)

At shearing, the busiest time
at a wool-growing property, the shearing shed
becomes a small factory and the cooks in the nearby kitchen
power this human sweat and toil. MAN: They really are the engine room
of the shearing team that come onto the station,
in our case twice a year, to shear our ewes, and a really important part
of our project here.

For 46 years, Cheryl Duggan has been
making meals for shearing teams. With husband Dick, the couple has travelled the sheep
regions of eastern Australia. Loved it, hated it sometimes, when you're getting bogged in
the..."Oh, no, no road," or...yeah. But a lot of them... I think... Yeah, I love the travel,
I think, pretty much. When we're not shearing,
I don't know what to do with myself.

Dick began shearing
in his early teens. I started at 14,
at a shed called Steam Plains. Yeah. And, uh...I told them
I was 18, of course, but... Anyway, you didn't have to show
birth certificates them days.

Dick Duggan forged a reputation that
earnt him the nickname The King. Now 81, The King now plays
consort to his queen. CHERYL: Dick gets up
and cooks breakfast. I get up about 7:00
and my day starts then, and we just progress
through the day. He cooks the meat
or...whatever we need. Whatever needs doing, we do.

Pooginook Station is a famous
merino stud near Jerilderie in the NSW Riverina region and spring shearing is in full swing. There are eight shearers
and as many shedhands, roustabouts, wool rollers,
wool classers, the shearing contractor
and the presser - at least 16, often more,
hungry workers to feed. JOHN SUTHERLAND:
It is a logistical exercise and Vic the contractor's vital in delivering not only good shearers
and good shed staff, also the cook
and organising all the rations. Good food and a good bed always
keeps a man happy, I reckon. That's right, yeah. Yeah. Yeah, keeps everyone happy. Good sheep do too, though.
(LAUGHS) Jeez, you're full of compliments
today, Dick! (BOTH LAUGH)

You can please some of the people
some of the time but you can't please all the people
all of the time, you know? And that's the general run of it. And the blokes - well, it's there. If they don't want it,
they don't have to eat it, you know? But we usually try to put two
different meals on each time so that they've got a choice
of what they eat.

Dick Duggan's working day begins
in the kitchen soon after 5:00. There's always
a hot breakfast on hand - scrambled eggs, bacon, toast,
even fried mushrooms. It's a waiting game,
and gotta work by time...

..with the clock, you know?

By 6:30, most of the team is
tucking into a hearty breakfast. CHERYL: This team we've got now,
they're pretty good on the tooth. They'll eat quite well.

In the wool shed,
the catching pens are full, and with a full stomach,
finely sharpened shears and a minute or two of contemplation, the shearers get ready
for the rigours of an 8-hour day. Rightio!

On the stroke of 7:30,
they spring into action. For the next two hours, the only time they'll lift their
heads is to catch another sheep.

All the while in the cookhouse,
Cheryl Duggan makes morning tea, known as smoko - a half-hour break.

And Dick acts as delivery boy. Morning smoko's mostly hot food - party pies, sausage rolls, cocktail frankfurts, maybe,
or dim sims or whatever. Toasted sandwiches.

Today, there's pizza as well,
and the team make short work of it. Very spoilt, really. Lots of
variety, which is very important, and, yeah,
all beautiful-tasting food. Yeah, it's lovely. Well, for a start,
if you've got happy men, it makes a helluva difference. You can get away with a bit, like, if the sheep are a bit tough,
or things aren't quite right. If you've got a good cook
and keeps the team happy, makes a helluva difference. I think having a good shearers'
cook, it's the core of a good team. Keeping everybody happy. If you've
got a good cook, everybody's happy. (LAUGHS)

Cheryl Duggan's cooking career
started by accident. I was thrown into it to start with. The cook snatched it or
was sacked. And I was 20 year old,
straight out of the city. "You've gotta cook dinner."
"OK. I'll do that."

When they came down for dinner,
no meat. Nobody told me you had to put
wood in the woodfire, so... That was my induction into cooking, and it's just rolled on ever since. Cooked with my first baby
when she was two weeks old, and just kept going.

That was beautiful. Thank you.
Good. Ta. Thank you very much.
See ya. When they first met, Dick and Cheryl already had
five children between them. Soon after, they married
and had four more.

Dick worked alongside Cheryl, both
as a shearer and shearing contractor. The kids looked after themselves,
I guess. Um...oh, I've got photos of the kids looking like they've like they've
just come out of a bog somewhere. Um, don't get a bath
until 8:00 at night or whatever. But, yeah,
the kids loved the outdoor life.

The work was often remote,
the conditions rudimentary. No power a lot of the sheds in those
days when they were little.

Like, even when I first started,
it was kerosene fridges. With this difference in
refrigeration, you know, you can take things out
where once you just couldn't... ..couldn't have tomatoes
or lettuce, especially in the hotter weather. It either come in a tin
or you just didn't have it. You found a brand yet? Wool classer Chrissie Hall
has a first-hand appreciation of what it takes
to feed a shearing team. It's a hard job. I did it for two weeks once at
Hatfield in this little kitchen, and everything had to be
put back into bags because the dust would blow and
everything would be covered in dust. And the only window
I had was about that big... MAN: I know! ..of clear glass, and all you could
see was one tree for 20 miles.

You just got two-hour increments
all day long until 4:00, and you can have a shower
and take a break till 5:00. Mm, that's about it. WOMAN: Now to national rural news.

CHRISSIE HALL: So, a radio is
a must, I reckon, in the kitchen. I think it would be a type of job become very housebound. You've only got six foot of kitchen
or whatever, and that's it -
that's your whole day. How you going, Geoff?
Good, mate. And people come in, they eat,
they leave. Come in, eat, leave.

The kitchen at Pooginook
is a class above most. CHERYL: Definitely not typical
of some of the kitchens. Like, some we've had
little tiny wood stoves and that's all you've got. We had a gas stove
that got flyblown. You could smell from the front door. Had to throw that out and just use the little wood stove
in the middle of summer. Um...yeah, no, this is pretty good,
actually. Very good. It's like being at home. DICK: Here we are.

JOHN SUTHERLAND: Good facilities
attract good people, and at the end of the day,
we're all here to do a good job. That's basically
the genuine wish of everyone.

In these isolated areas
where people have to stay overnight or for several days or two weeks, I think it's an important part
of our society out here to be able to get the work done

Sometimes when they're too far
from town, it's a case of make do.

There is a bit of an art to it. You'll always run out of something. Always. So you work around that.

A good cook should be able to make
anything out of nothing, and it's very much appreciated
and enjoyed.

Some people are enthusiastic
about their work and some people
are less enthusiastic.

Well, we've had a few cooks and they can make everything
from scratch, whereas other people, the whole stores is full of packets,
packets, packets, yeah. "What's for tea?" "Oh, I dunno.
Cheryl hasn't told me." Yeah. There's one ingredient
never in short supply. Dick's always got plenty of yarns.
(LAUGHS) There's no worries about that. That's one thing
he's never short of.

Once, shearing was
a staunchly blokey affair. Some couldn't tolerate
a woman near the woolshed. DICK: It reminds me,
we were up in Queensland one year and...and the cook's snatched it
and went, and next thing
the cocky's wife said, "Oh, I'll fill in
until we get somebody," and a new presser turned up. Got out of the taxi 60 mile out,
seen the woman in the shed and said, "Woman cook?!
Take me back to town." So, that...
what women were about once. But now they're probably
50% of the team, yeah. Even shearing.

It was once customary for the cook
to kill a sheep for rations. I can dress a sheep
but I couldn't cut their throat. I'm too soft-hearted. (LAUGHS)

ANNETTE McCULLOCH: When we're on a
station and they kill meat for us, I mean, we go through a whole sheep
in a matter of a couple of days. We have roast dinners day and night,
different things - chops and so on. I mean, there's so many different
things you can do with lamb. (LAUGHS)
So, yeah, it's mind-blowing.

These days
there's less meat on the menu. I don't remember making
so much salad years ago. It was more soup
and meat and veg then.

But now, I mean, in the hot weather,
they like a lot of salad, and even in the winter I've had
people ask for salad, so... CHRISSIE: Everybody's become a bit
more wary of what they're eating. There's always fruit -
everybody goes berserk for fruit and salads and wraps. And it's really quite amazing, yeah.

How much and what shearing teams eat
depends on the weather. This can be frightfully hot work. We get icy poles in summer and we just hang for icy poles in
the afternoon, yeah, and watermelon, and they keep it cold
and it's just beautiful, because as you can imagine,
like, on a 40-degree day outside and it's 40 degrees inside the shed,
like, you just... ..anything that's cool is delicious
and beautiful, yeah.

But it seems everyone who's ever
worked in a shearing team has a horror story about a cook. They've tried to starve us,
and, uh... ..yeah, some just had no idea.

CHERYL: We did have,
oh, years before, when we were up in Queensland
and women weren't in the sheds then, we had this cook that was...
oh, they were changing sheds and they didn't wanna cook dinner
for them, so Dick's said to him, "Look, mate, I think you better
cook dinner for these blokes." So he just picks up
a dirty big bag of potatoes and tips it into a pot of cold
water, dirt and all, and said, "There. That'll do 'em."

Dick Duggan once saw three cooks
sacked in quick succession. DICK: Well, somebody left
a bottle of rum in the room and I didn't realise
until three of them had to go. Then I got rid of the rum.

MAN: I seen one that told us he had
alcoholic poisoning at Charleville. Yeah. I remember him well.
We had to get rid of him. Yeah, we went all week and we still had three parts
of the sheep in the meathouse. And that was on the Friday morning
when we got rid of him.

Vic McCalman's tale
takes some topping.

Had one fella who pulled
a heart attack on us once, and I think it was the greatest
thing that ever happened. It was funny, because the boys
said to me in the bar, must have been about a Wednesday, "How long
we gotta put up with this?" And I said, "Well,
we're gonna have to get..." It was the middle of spring. I thought,
"Where am I gonna get a cook?" We got through till Thursday night,
and this fella, he's got the tea on
and everything's cooking away, and all of a sudden he thinks
he's having a heart attack. Well, we rang the ambulance was funny, because once he got taken away,
everyone was just happy. They just exploded
and we had a big party. We finished all the cooking. We got through and actually got
one of the best cooks we've ever had after that. But, um, yeah,
it was an interesting time. (LAUGHS) I think that's it. Is it?
Yeah. Everybody's been in? So does Cheryl Duggan
feel appreciated? They do say thankyou every...nearly
every meal, so I'm hoping they are. I think we would...we'd not have
a job now if we weren't. (LAUGHS) Oh.

ANNETTE: They do it blindfold -
they know what each other's thinking and they just put it all together. They're a great team
to have with a shearers team. Yeah. 'Cause they're a team as well.

Dick Duggan's party trick was
shearing a sheep while blindfolded. He once almost did it live
on national television. DICK: It reminds me,
on the Don Lane Show, we were supposed to shear one
blindfolded. (LAUGHS) And the lady said to me,
"Do you ever cut one?" I said, "No, I never have, but
I suppose there's always a first." "Ooh. We mightn't do that live." So we didn't do it, and we only just
shore one. (CHUCKLES) Yeah. I shouldn't have said nothing,
should I?

Dick Duggan is acknowledged as one
of the greats of Australian shearing. He won 108 shearing championships,
retired at 75, was recently inducted
into the Shearers Hall Of Fame. It's actually a pleasure and an
honour for us at Pooginook here to have people like Dick and Cheryl, because there aren't
many of those guys around, especially at that age
with that experience, and sitting around at night
listening to the yarns about what they've been up to
and where they've done I think's a great thing for the
younger generation coming through.

When you get to my age,
what do you do? You know? Sort gotta be doing
something, don't you? When you've worked all your life,
you just don't stop.

You get used to travelling around
and... ..once you're home
after a little while you get... ..well, Dick and I
start getting a bit cranky. We don't...we don't talk much at
all, but then we don't talk at all! So... (LAUGHS) You know, just...yeah,
it's good to get away and talk...and talk to other people
about different things.

How long do you reckon
you'll stick at this game? Till he...till he dies. He won't let me retire. (LAUGHS) I don't know. I think we've got another year
or two in us yet, maybe. I don't know. (LAUGHS)

Lots of water is what farmers
usually pray for.

But when storms swept through South
Australia at the start of the month, and the swollen Gawler River
burst its banks, several hundred growers
in the north Adelaide plains watched their hard work
and future incomes wash away.

WOMAN: Devastation.
There's nothing left. Anything that's been in the ground,
we can't recover it.

Trang Xuan and her family were just
starting to harvest these tomatoes when their Buckland Park property
was swamped. The timing couldn't have been worse. They've recently spent six months
and $500,000 installing new infrastructure.

This is our first crop that was supposed to produce
some return on that investment, and we're not going to see anything.

With many of their 70,000 tomato and
bean crops under a metre of water, the family spent the first few days
assessing the damage by boat.

(ENGINE WHIRRS) Since then, this has been a constant
sound on their farm and many others. We've been out 24 hours a day, we've been trying to pump water
out of the property using five pumps,
two very large ones. But, you know, we have to be up
every two hours to put more petrol
in those pumps.

We're sleep deprived.

A couple of weeks on
and the floodwaters have subsided, leaving the saturated soil
dry enough to walk on...just. The family is now faced
with the next miserable task - pulling out row upon row
of ruined crops. Between plants and infrastructure,
Trang says they've lost $250,000.

And it's not just the mother-of-two
and her family feeling the impact. We've let go of three full-time
staff in the last couple of days and financially
we just can't afford them anymore, not with no income
for the next six months.

MAN: We've lost probably around
40 to 50 acres of produce. Government assessors
are hearing many similar stories as they inspect the damage
across the region. So we got probably, you know,
maybe half a week of supply and then it's all over so... The north Adelaide plains produces more than half
of South Australia's vegetables and is promoted
as the state's salad bowl. It's a very limp-looking salad
in many parts right now. While field crops including potatoes,
broccoli and cauliflowers have been affected, it's the greenhouse growers
around Virginia and Buckland Park that have taken the biggest hit, with tomato, capsicum and cucumber
losses among the highest. MAN: There is 300 million-plus
of production in this region alone, somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000
jobs, on estimate, so to have this flood come through
and cause anywhere between $50, $70 million, on latest
estimates, worth of damage is going to cause a real hit
to the region.

Thi Bich Loan Nguyen and her husband
were looking forward to harvesting their 50,000 cucumber
plants this season.

Instead they now have the unenviable
job of cutting down a worthless crop that was looking very valuable.

Last year at the same time like that
only $3 when bag 15 cucumber, this year now $9. Three times. So last year only $3 for a bag
of 15 cucumbers you would get, and this year you would get $9. Yes, $9 now you see. What will you get now?
Nothing now. Nothing. All cucumber die.
I can get nothing now.

The couple has been growing cucumbers
in the area for more than two decades. Like many local producers
they were uninsured. It's either prohibitively expensive or impossible to get insurance
in most parts of Virginia. You wouldn't be able
to make a profit if you did have that insurance. We are on what is technically
a floodplain and that works because the soils
are quite good. We've got access to water,
we're close to market but often in vegetable industries
you'll face issues with flood.

This isn't the first time these
producers have had to wade through
metres of mud and rotting produce. Both Trang Xuan
and Thi Bich Loan Nguyen watched their greenhouses go under when severe floods
hit the region in 2005. The growers say they were assured they wouldn't have to face
this again. TRANG XUAN: We were promised that
there would be no more floods 10 years ago when we were here. It's happened again. We can't keep investing money in something that we're not
going to get any return on.

After the last disaster, more than $20 million of federal,
state and local government funds were spent
on a flood mitigation scheme. That included the construction
of this dam and upgrades to a reservoir in the
tributaries feeding the Gawler River. You'd have to say whatever happened
last time was imperfect because we've landed
in this same space again. Why didn't they work
down where growing areas are? That's something
that we need to review. The work that we've done previously has indicated that if we put
these structures in place it will reduce the impact
that floodwaters have in the lower catchment.

I need now you tell government
help never flood again, never do that again, you know? You're saying you want the government
to say it will never happen again? Yes, never, please.
For me, please, never. It's very hard for me, you know?

Landline repeatedly asked to talk
to the state agriculture minister about the floods. He wasn't available. What the South Australian government
has done is set up a waste management program and offered to reimburse growers
up to $10,000 in clean-up costs. It's also promising extra
financial support down the track. This initial clean-up is likely
to continue for several weeks, possibly months, and many growers are worried that once they've emptied
their greenhouses, they'll be faced with
an even bigger problem - a poor foundation on which
to try and rebuild their businesses.

Loss of topsoil, disease
and contamination are the biggest concerns. TRANG XUAN: Each farm keeps
at least 100L worth of pesticides, insecticides, chemicals,
fertilisers. We don't know what's been in the
water, what's been in the soil.

Even the amount of water sitting
on top of the soil for so long can do a lot of harm. The water actually suffocates
everything, so all the good critters
and microbes and the life actually goes out of it because they just
drown like we would. Tasmanian-based soil scientist
Doris Blaesing has been visiting
the flood-affected region and taking a quick look
at what has been left behind. You have your soil
and you use the liquid. She is warning growers
not to re-plant too early, saying that could lead
to another crop failure. If the soil has got life in it, then
this purple colour will go white. Instead she is urging them to test
nutrient levels, apply compost and, if they can afford to,
sow a cover crop. While it can take several years to
recover if too much topsoil is lost, she is encouraged by her initial
assessment of Trang Xuan's farm. This sample is looking really good so you actually haven't lost
all your soil life, so this is really exciting,
good news.

And good news is something this
young grower is badly in need of.

It will be up to six months before Trang Xuan
can start putting vegetables in instead of pulling them out. But she is determined
to get to that stage, despite fears
of being badly flooded again.

I guess we need to fight on.

And that's the show. From everyone in the team,
thanks for watching. Don't forget, Landline is also broadcast
on Sundays at noon. But for now, goodbye.

Captions by Ericsson Access Services Copyright Australian Broadcasting

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