It’s a windy day and the sun is hot as the Wallace family begins drafting the sheep on their small farm outside of Yass.
Blake, aged 11, is learning how to separate the ewes from their young alongside his father, Matt Wallace.
Not far away is the Wallace’s younger son Lucas, who has the job of mustering the sheep from the bottom of the paddock.
He yells at the animals, ushering them over tussocks of grass, a determined look on his face.
Lucas, who has cerebral palsy, is just nine years old and conducts all his farm work from a customised wheelchair.
‘Anything we do on the farm, he’s there’
The small property, about 60 kilometres north of Canberra, was purchased by Phyllis and Matt Wallace less than two years ago.
They made the leap from life in suburban Queanbeyan after realising how much their sons thrived on the land, and juggle their jobs along with running livestock.
“Lucas is very lucky in having grandparents who have a property,” Phyllis said.
She said it was obvious that Lucas, like his brother, loved getting involved and “being a helper”.
“It’s just been a matter of finding a place for us all to settle, and a permanent place to call home,” she said.
Farm life helping to develop new skills
The brothers have each developed an interest in different tasks on the farm, with Lucas a natural at mustering.
In the months since they transitioned to their new life, the Wallaces have also watched him gain new skills they did not know were possible.
Cerebral palsy is a physical disability that affects movement and posture, but there is scope to adapt and improve with the right therapies.
Lucas is proof of that.
“He’s been learning how to open gates, but still learning how to lock up the gates, but that’s definitely something that we’re learning,” Phyllis said.
“We had shearing a few months ago and he was helping grab the wool off the table and put it into the right bales.
She said it helped that Lucas was both “determined” and “stubborn” when it came to being a part of things.
“If he can’t find something he can’t do in a normal way that we can, he’ll adapt it, he’ll find a way around.”
It meant his wheelchair, complete with sturdy wheels to cope with the rough terrain of the paddocks, needed servicing more often than most others.
Social media video inspires others
Lucas’s skill with sheep recently attracted widespread attention when Phyllis shared footage of him on social media.
She said she was pleasantly surprised by the response.
“It was crazy,” Phyllis said.
“This is everyday life for us, everyday life for Lucas, so I thought it would be cute to post how he was able to do it on his own.
“And it just went crazy, the amount of support and the amount of love.”
She said she had been receiving messages from people since who had been inspired to encourage their own children, many of them with the same or similar condition to Lucas, to get involved with farm life.
“There were so many comments from people saying it was great to see him doing an everyday skill,” she said.
“Even though he is stuck in a wheelchair when we’re outside, it doesn’t stop him from being an active member of the family.”
She said it wasn’t just strangers living far away who drew motivation from Lucas.
“And it’s just like — alright, if he can do it, I can too.”
For Blake, the move to the property has meant more freedom to play with his brother.
“Me and him, we’ll go and fetch the sheep — I’ll help by standing at the gate to make sure they go in,” he said.
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