Beef Australia volunteers prepare to close the gates on Australia’s biggest beef industry event

Volunteers who have worked tirelessly around the clock for Beef Australia 2021 say watching the crowd dribble out and closing the gates for the last time will be bittersweet.

More than 800 volunteers, staff and contractors from across the country made Australia’s biggest beef Industry event, which happens every three years, possible.

Volunteer Michelle Kinbacher greeted hundreds of people as they streamed through the gates of the Rockhampton Showgrounds.

“It’s such a big event, and it takes so much putting together, and if I can help someone, I will.”

This was Ms Kinbacher’s second time making the four-and-a-half-hour trip from Biggenden to volunteer at the event.

“My husband comes up, and it’s like a bit of a holiday for us as well because, on properties, you don’t get away every day or for a holiday,” she said.

“I think I’ll be back here in three years.”

Gracemere woman Cassandra Stanley took a break from her job as a full-time carer for her husband to work as a cleaner.

“[We’re] cleaning toilets and doing the bins and just making sure that there’s not paper and stuff laying around on the floor – and just keeping everything stocked up in the toilets for the ladies and gents,” she said.

Ms Stanley said she had met many friendly characters during the week.

“When people say, ‘Thank you. It’s like aw, thanks – it’s great to be appreciated it really is and people are so friendly,” she said.

“I mean, it kills the feet, but I would definitely do it again.”

As well as cleaning, Natalie Harkess was involved in the eight-week setup and will be involved in the pack down.

“I work in the afternoon as well [at a local hospitality venue] – 15 hours a day I’m doing, so yeah I’m a bit tired,” she said.

Both women only just realised they lived around the corner from each other.

“We’ve only just met as well. We don’t know each other,” Ms Harkess said.

The cleaning duo said despite the odd nauseating situations – working at the event was a great experience.

“The stallholders, they’re giving us lots of water so we’re not dehydrated.

“We get to see Beef [Australia] and we get to work it.”

Rockhampton man Gordon Ryan volunteered at Beef 2018 and often gives his time to local services and organisations.

“Right from the fire service, SES, anything that happens – the whole of Australia runs on volunteers,” he said.

Mr Ryan spent more than five hours a day at the cattle gates.

“It’s opening and closing the gates for the cattle to move in and out of the ring, so that we can keep the public separated from the cattle, so no-one gets hurt,” he said.

He said meeting different people was his highlight and what he liked was working with the other volunteers.

“Plus, we get to see all the cattle at the show go in and out, talk to cattle people and their handlers. It’s very good,” he said.

“There are some funny characters around the place.”

Mr Ryan said he hoped some new volunteers would join him at Beef 2024.

“A lot of volunteers are retirees,  and quite a few take time off work just to do the event,” he said.

“We’re not going to be around forever.”

Sarra-Lee Britton gained her qualification to work as a security guard last year.

“[I do] some big hours, but I know a lot of the other guards have been putting in bigger.

“It’s been a really good crew to work with.”

With the job of scanning people out of the event, the Rockhampton mum said her voice was wavering.

“I’m speaking to hundreds of people every shift – but I come to work with a smile on my face and leave with a smile on my face,” she said.

“Everyone’s having a great time. Everyone’s pretty well-behaved.

“I’m here until close, so I see them when they’re at their most jolly, you could say, but they’re definitely a good crowd this year.”

Arthur Patterson travelled 600 kilometres from Brisbane to Rockhampton as a contractor with a portaloo company.

“We do a few hours, but you do the necessary thing to keep the event happening,” he said.

“My work involves the rubbish collection, meeting the bin truck and just helping out with the guys out doing the rubbish, the hand cleaning of the toilet blocks and shower blocks.”

The 55-year-old’s “normal job” is a pump truck driver, but he jumps at the opportunity of working for any events.

“Like any other event, without anyone that does the clean-up, it would be a bit messy and disorganised.

“We get a lot of, ‘thanks, keep up the good work and thanks for all the hard work we do’.

“You’d be surprised a lot of people, your everyday punter, actually recognises what we’re here for.”

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New push to give Australia’s hairstylists formal training to help deal with customers’ problems

Nicole Serafin has been a hairdresser for 30 years and hasn’t often felt stumped for something to say.

But when she was a young apprentice, a client having her hair blow-dried revealed something that threw her.

“They’re upset, their husband’s just passed away and they’re in the middle of organising a funeral. I didn’t actually know what to say,” she said.

The incident happened not long after Ms Serafin started her training at the age of 14. 

Olivia Pollard Hayden, 22, is a second year apprentice hairstylist who has already heard many intimate stories in her short time in the job.

 “Clients do tell you some pretty heavy personal information,” she said.

“I’ve had people tell me [about] domestic violence issues … drug and alcohol issues. Anything from terminal illnesses, or them suffering from depression, anxiety.

“I haven’t had any sort of training or anything. I’ve just kind of had to … read from whoever I’m talking to at the time on how to really approach that.”

Now, hairdressers are asking for help, as industry surveys confirm they are exposed to clients facing problems like family violence, mental health and trauma, often amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recent survey by the Australian Hairdressing Council (AHC) about the impact of coronavirus in 2020, found that for the majority, uncertainty had caused increased stress, with mental health and financial concerns rating the highest.

The Hair Stylists Association (HSA), wants to work with the industry to make sure workers’ mental health is addressed through a review of training given to apprentices hairdressers.

Daniel Walton, national secretary of the HSA’s umbrella body, the Australian Workers Union (AWU), said hairstylists had been at the coalface, as support services reported a surge of new clients during the pandemic.

“When you sit down at the hairdresser or barber, a lot of people like to talk about what’s going on in life and hair stylists right around the country are some of the youngest psychologists helping and assisting people dealing with the issues that they face on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

Industry stress has been amplified since hairstylists were ruled “essential” during the COVID lockdown, but struggled to have their health concerns about exposure to the virus acknowledged.

Hairdressers and beauty workers should be acknowledged for “acting like makeshift counsellors”, Hannah McCann, senior lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of Melbourne, said.

Dr McCann’s 2020 survey of nearly 400 salon workers showed one in five had clients who disclosed family or gender-based violence during the year.

As part of her Beauty Salon Project, Dr McCann found many salon workers simply did not know where to send their clients for help.

“For the most part you have an industry full of people that really just are responding to these things with their common sense,” she said.

She warned that a client who followed advice to “just leave him” could potentially be placed in danger, with homicide a risk factor after separation.

“So it’s not a good thing to not have supports around this for the clients or for the staff,” she said.

The 2015 Royal Commission into Family Violence found that family violence could be identified early through individuals having hair and beauty care.

In the wake of that finding, the “HaiR 3Rs” program at the Eastern Domestic Violence service in Melbourne and Hairdressers with Hearts in Queensland now offer training in how to help people in this situation.

HaiR 3Rs offers a free, three-hour session in the salon or via zoom, to help “recognise signs of family violence, respond appropriately, and refer clients onto a family violence service”.

It’s a positive development and evidence things are slowly changing, Dr McCann believes.

“They [salon workers] said that one of the best things about the training was it was opening up space for acknowledging, that this is part of their work … but also, then giving them some supports for referral,” she said.

Ms Serafin wants more training for apprentices but believes more support is needed overall to prevent burnout and people leaving the industry.

“I know councillors, psychologists and psychiatrists have buddy systems, where they have people or places they can go to to kind of debrief about their days or certain clients or whatever,” she said.

“What’s happening at the moment is the only support we have really is within the industry or our partners, our friends.”

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With a St Kilda jumper as bait, paedophile coaches turned boyhood dreams into nightmares

Like so many other boys, he could ignore the uncomfortable moments if it meant pulling on a St Kilda jumper. It was 1976. He was 11 years old. A friendly man with a doting wife and a baby in the pram beside them offered him a game in the Saints Little League team.

The man said he was the team manager, or maybe the assistant coach. The boy was flattered by the attention, so the precise details barely mattered. It felt like the day his football dream was moving closer to reality.

Like so many who played for the St Kilda Little League, he’s now a man who doesn’t want his name forever associated with the paedophile ring that infiltrated the team in the 1970s. He has a career and a name to protect, and after all, it wasn’t his fault.

Yet he also knows the sad truth: this is how it works. This is how boys are silenced and remain mute in manhood. In recent weeks, he’s cried tears of guilt for the others — the ones who haven’t lived normal lives.

Warning: This story contains details of child sexual abuse which may disturb some readers.

Thinking back, he’s upset he didn’t see the warning signs. The man had taken such a genuine interest in him, driving him to Saints training and other outings, watching his junior games, developing a warm, father-like interest in a matter of weeks. But he says the lingering shoulder rub at the bowling alley certainly put him on edge.

The boy played in round six — St Kilda vs Footscray at the Western Oval. At the beginning of the second quarter, two men led the boy and his Saints teammates into the senior change rooms and kitted them out like their heroes. At half-time, they played — miniature league footballers for a day.

Next the boys lined the race for high-fives as their idols ran back out for the main game: Trevor Barker, Cowboy Neale, Barry Breen, George Young, Carl Ditterich, Rex Hunt. St Kilda lost by five points, but it was intoxicating. Every boy hoped he’d done enough to play again the following week.

A week later, things were looking up: the boy packed his boots and socks and the man’s car edged down the driveway. They drove away together for another day at the football. Then came a confusing update: the boy was only an ’emergency’ player. More doubts crept in. He wondered why this man who so clearly wasn’t the coach was driving him and other boys around town on weekends.

“I don’t think I was actually an emergency,” he says now.

The boy didn’t play. On the car ride home, a kilometre or two from home, he says he felt the shock of the man’s hands caressing his leg and moving up. Every misgiving and moment of confusion sharpened into focus, and he yelled: “Stop the car, I’ll get out here.” He says he’s never forgotten that panicked moment — the precise location, the feeling of fear.

“He’d sort of presented himself as the team manager, but in hindsight, he wasn’t. He was just this sort of hanger-on.

“Here was me thinking I might get to play another game for St Kilda Little League the whole time. I hung in there because I thought I’d get chosen. And that was, for my ego, the closest I’d get to playing for St Kilda.”

Now his prevailing feeling is anger — not only that nothing was done to protect him and other boys, but that the Saints jumper and the glamour of league football was the bait used to lure them towards harm. Since he read the story of Rod Owen’s abuse at the hands of St Kilda Little League coach Darrell Ray and team manager Albert Briggs, like many others, he’s also been wracked by guilt. Could he have spoken up? Was that his job?

Yet neither Ray nor Briggs was the man who groomed him. It was another fixture of the Saints Little League scene in that time — the one whom only the boys who crossed his path remember. His name was Gary Mitchell, a teaching colleague of Ray’s at Beaumaris Primary School, and a regular lieutenant in the football teams Ray coached.

Like Ray, Mitchell was a prolific sex offender. For six decades, he groomed and molested schoolboys who were placed in his care, leaving some of his victims to reel for decades in states of suicidal depression and misery. It took some survivors 50 years to speak of the horrors Mitchell subjected them to. As schoolteachers, the pair would fondle boys’ genitals for three to four minutes at a time — ordeals that many have never gotten over.

Dozens of Ray’s former players who spoke to the ABC in the last three weeks now wonder how Mitchell — unelected, undocumented and unsupervised — could create an unhindered path to grooming boys in the football teams coached by Ray, and how for a decade, between 1967 and 1977, the St Kilda Football Club provided the setting for wholesale child sex offending by Darrell Ray.

Because not every boy jumped out of the car, dodged a wandering hand or escaped the clutches of Darrell Ray and Gary Mitchell.

And not every boy has lived to tell his story.

“No child should have to endure what Rod experienced, and to hear that this abuse took place under the St Kilda name is shattering,” Saints CEO Matt Finnis said in a statement.

“Rod, and others like him, must be assured that should you make the choice to disclose information of this nature you will be heard, you will be supported, and most importantly, you will be believed.”

Finnis said the club would “seek advice from police and expert agencies to ensure Rod and anyone else who may come forward is supported.”

In the coming months, several men seem likely to seek such belief and support.

“This bastard f***ed up my life,” said one former St Kilda Little League player who told the ABC he was sexually abused by Darrell Ray.

Another player, who tallied 40 Saints Little League games between 1974 and 1976, outlines Ray’s prolific and unsophisticated offending: “He tried to molest as many children as he could,” he says.

“I used to cringe when I’d see him putting his hands down people’s pants in the dressing rooms.

“You’d be standing there and he’d lean over you. He’d sit next to you and start.

In change rooms, and on car rides to training and games, it was a routine that Ray would repeat for the duration of his 11-season stint as St Kilda Little League coach, and is the basis of most of the former players’ current allegations towards him.

The 40-game player says Ray built his St Kilda teams around a select group of star players — a team within the team. More often than not, he says, they were the half-dozen boys Ray regularly picked up from their homes early on Saturday mornings, only dropping them back home in the darkness of the early evening.

Other players called the select group “Ray’s favourites”, or “Ray’s pets”, but for some, that privileged status came at a cost. Favourites and pets were often boys the coach had molested. Some were also groomed by team “hanger-on” Gary Mitchell.

St Kilda Little League team manager Albert Briggs — molester of Rod Owen, and a man described by an associate of the time as “strange” and “possessive” of the Little League boys — was not exactly a shoulder to cry on.

“Mr Briggs was not friendly,” another former player says.

“He was a headmaster type figure who you didn’t mess with. I never liked him, but I never knew why.”

Players say Ray preyed on the youngest and smallest players, and “left the big kids alone”. As smaller players matured, some were able to physically stand up to Ray, but by then, many say they had suffered years of abuse.

For some, it was almost impossible to escape Ray’s vortex. Up to a dozen boys per season simultaneously played in three different football teams coached by Ray — his school, club and Little League sides — and in summer, cricket teams too. Exploiting the power imbalance, they say Ray created an almost unquestioning loyalty between player and coach.

Having secured their silence, the former players say Ray could and did interfere with the boys in almost any context. One player recalls rationalising it by telling himself: “He’s gonna get us into the footy team one day”.

Among boys whose entire world was sport, Ray also created a godlike coaching persona.

“At that age, a footy coach is someone you look up to,” one player says. “That’s how he got our trust.”

To understand the thrall Ray exerted, and the captivity in which he held the boys he groomed and abused, you need only ask for the recollections of players he coached. Some still feel, even after all these years, a strange gratitude, for his football guidance at least.

“The irony is that he was actually a very good football coach,” one says.

Another says: “Everybody loved Darrell Ray. And I must admit, he was a bloody good football coach. He was creative.”

A third, who played Saints Little League in 1977, hints more tellingly at the dynamics at play: “I don’t know if anybody put it this way, but my understanding is that some of those kids almost fell in love with him. The kids were in awe of him, because he had the power to play them in the Little League.”

Amazed to consider his unthinking compliance from the distance of 45 years, the 40-game Little League star of mid-70s cuts his nine-year-old self some slack.

“It was a big time in our lives, where we were living this pretend lifestyle trying to be AFL players,” he says.

But playing for St Kilda had pitfalls. Another player from St Kilda’s 1974 Little League team says he remembers Ray’s Cheshire cat grin as he watched the boys showering in the Kardinia Park change rooms after a muddy game against Geelong.

Standing in the shower among Ray’s “favourites” that day was a boy whose story now haunts the memories of those who knew him.

One former St Kilda Little League player describes the impact on those who were abused by Ray as a continuum. Fighting back tears, he places himself at the “not affected” end of the scale, then progresses through other phases — the drug and alcohol abuse, stunted emotional growth, unfulfilled potential, mental health breakdowns and shattered lives of some men — until he reaches the “horror stories”.

Trevor Foster is one of the horror stories.

Trevor was the kind of boy who needed only a fleeting moment to make a lifelong impression. One Saints Little League player who recalls barely a second of the 1973 and ’74 seasons brings immediately to mind the image of Foster’s long blond locks trailing him as he flew for a spectacular mark, like a miniature Trevor Barker.

Teammates from Foster’s mid-teen years remember a talent reminiscent of Melbourne’s champion wingman Robert Flower — a dashing outside player who was somehow also bravely diving in and under the packs, always at the forefront of the action, in football and in life.

Trevor’s sister Leigh, five years younger, recalls how the universal adoration of her brother smoothed her own path through primary school.

“I’d walk down the street and people would say ‘There’s Little Foster’,” she says.

“Who I became in those early days was based on his reputation.”

That reputation was built not just on Foster’s sporting brilliance and eye-catching surfie appearance, but an effortless charisma that set him apart. In Beaumaris FC junior teams containing players destined for league lists, Trevor was elected captain. Yet in the macho environs of football clubs, this leader was his own man — a poetic soul and an oddball.

There were signs of inner turmoil, too. A former teammate describes his playing style: “He had a bit of courage, which might have been a bit of fearlessness, which might have been a bit of recklessness, which might have been a bit of ‘F*** the world, I don’t care what happens to me’.”

Nowadays, Trevor’s mates lament the traits that defined him, because they were the same ones that would have made him such easy prey for Darrell Ray: he wasn’t just short, but wisp-thin and cute; upon his arrival in town, he fell within Ray’s preferred range of eight and nine-year-olds; he was besotted with football and eager to please; tellingly, Trevor’s dad was not on the scene, and he tended to project the deficit of fatherly guidance.

Ray spotted the talent and vulnerability immediately. Foster was ushered into the Saints Little League scene, and more than any player in the team, boisterous but fragile Trevor gained confidence in the cheers from the outer.

From a shoebox of ephemera, one of Foster’s St Kilda Little League teammates of that period produces Ray’s typed match report of the team’s game against Fitzroy at Moorabbin in 1974. It hints at Foster’s dilemma: “‘Mighty Midget’ Foster was a great forward, and obviously a favourite of the crowd, judging from the roar each time he got the ball.”

Trevor was also a favourite of Ray’s. Unable to contain her anger as she describes the four decades of drug abuse and hardships that followed, one friend summarises the conclusions drawn by most who knew Trevor:

Unlike many of Ray’s victims, who repressed their traumas quickly and sometimes forevermore, friends and family say Trevor felt immediately compelled to disclose what the coach was doing to him, sharing details with children who couldn’t comprehend his experiences and adults who refused to. Eventually, that inaction contributed to a sense of betrayal from which he never recovered.

She remembers how a “bright, normal, kid” started to hit the skids in his teens. Drinking and drugs were common features of the teenage lifestyle in 1970s Beaumaris, but Trevor, lacking fatherly guidance, unsupported through his ordeal and disdainful of authority, seemed keener than most to push the boundaries. His fearlessness on the football field bled into the rest of his life, and his limitless potential seemed to evaporate.

“He was always looking for someone to support what he’d gone through,” Leigh says.

In his late teens, Foster moved to the Gold Coast, closer to his father, but life became no easier. Consumed by his various resentments, he traded the cheeky charisma that endeared him to all for a wounded sense of persecution that could damage relationships and ruin employment opportunities.

Attendees at Trevor’s 21st birthday party recall a jarring speech full of digs at those who’d let him down. Friends who’d seen the sun-bleached knockabout wooing women at the beach struggled to reconcile the Trevor of happier times with the jaundiced drug addict who railed at society’s failings.

Convictions for drink-driving and marijuana cultivation gave way to early parenthood, and the possibility of a settled life. But like his grounds keeping jobs at golf courses, grown-up responsibilities never stuck for long. If there was a 50:50 decision to be made, Trevor would always go the wrong way. He felt constantly judged. Once thought of as a pot-head dreamer, he became a heavy user, self-sabotaging his way into endless setbacks.

In the late 1990s, there was briefly hope of a turnaround. Buoyed by the bravery of former schoolmates who’d prompted a police investigation, Trevor hoped to become involved in the prosecution of Ray.

But what might have been a period of vindication, catharsis and rebirth turned sour: with nobody to back his story, Trevor was not involved in the trial; Ray’s 44-month sentence for 27 counts of indecent assault carried a minimum of just 17 months in jail; where other victims pursued successful civil action and received compensation payouts, Trevor almost inevitably missed out.

“That personifies Trevor in his 20s and 30s.” Leigh says.

“Nothing ever seemed to work out for him.”

As all the letdowns sunk in, Trevor’s life slowly but surely unravelled. Steady relationships and regular housing were swapped for boarding houses and cheap hostels. By his 40s, bipolar and schizophrenic diagnoses were no surprise to the family and friends who’d receive his irregular phone calls — sometimes the charming Trevor of his boyhood, reciting a brilliantly-conceived poem, more often the paranoid, addled and aggressive stranger who’d replaced him.

Considered worldly and literate, Trevor had written a few unpublished books. Now he threatened homicide and self-harm, talking in delusional diatribes about a TV script he’d written and an upcoming trip to Sydney to pitch it — the journey from which he’d never return.

It is difficult for those who knew Trevor at his vivacious best to imagine the hopelessness of his final days: the brush-offs from startled receptionists at the TV production offices he stalked with his ‘script’; the sighting of Foster, wearing only underpants, mumbling incoherently into a public telephone at the Taronga Zoo wharf; the final glimpse of him recorded by a CCTV camera at Circular Quay, where he took possession of some property from an unidentified man and walked in a southerly direction towards his demise.

Among the many horrifying aspects of what followed, the inability of paramedics and the New South Wales coroner to determine the precise date of Trevor’s death is only a subtle indignity. Yet its imprecision speaks of the bureaucratic indifference felt by many victims of sexual abuse: “Mr Foster died on 26 or 27 February 2012.”

Foster was 48 years old, broken and homeless. He died from stab wounds to the neck, most likely inflicted by a fellow rough sleeper — a lonely and demeaning ending, buried under a pile of tattered blankets in a garden bed within Sydney’s Domain parklands.

Leigh chooses to remember the spirit of Trevor’s first eight years, rather than the 40 years of confusion and pain that followed.

“To screw someone up to the extent it did, for him to have led the rest of his life the way he did, it just wasn’t him,” she says.

Pragmatic in their grief for the clever little urchin who lit up so many lives, the Fosters found no fault with two particularly tragic sentences from the inquest: “It is impossible to exclude the possibility that Mr Foster caused the injuries to himself while delusional.”

“Further it is possible, although much less likely, that another, unidentified third party caused the fatal wounds.”

“Anyone who has that type of experience, please contact the police, our integrity department, and we will deal with it in the appropriate way,” McLachlan told the ABC in April.

“There’s a couple of things. There’s obviously a police issue at the heart of it. As I understand, that league hasn’t operated for decades. So, I guess the primary thing I’d say is that we take these things seriously, we’ll work with the police.”

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Beef Australia traditions meet quirky fashion at Australia’s biggest beef industry event

From bold sunnies to bootleg jeans, tonnes of unique fashion is on display in Rockhampton, with thousands of people streaming through the gates of Beef Australia 2021.

Born and bred in the ‘Beef Capital’, Charni Finnegan, was stopped several times for her pink reflective, faux-diamond encrusted sunglasses.

“I bought them online for $2, so [I thought] yeah, might as well wear them out – show my style here in Rocky,” she said.

“Everything is kind of colour coordinated, got the pink boots, pink shirt, pink belt, everything else matches – so it’s great.

“Any chance I get, I always have something very unique on.”

Even without a single cow to her name, the 27-year-old is all about embracing Beef 2021 fashion.

“I try to go every time it’s on,” she said.

“I have a weird obsession with cows. I just love cows, [even] growing up, so might as well join in.”

Central Queensland artist Jules Holland embroidered her first hat while working in Cape York as a ranger about two years ago.

“I just looked over at my old beaten-up Akubra, and I thought I might put some flowers on it, and I didn’t think anything about it,” she said.

“Then everybody kept asking me who had made my hat and where they could get one, so I started making them, and within six months, I’d quit my job and I was doing it full time.”

The Emu Park woman said her work had sustained her through the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was challenging, as a small business that’s just starting out, that was quite a scary time,” she said.

“But. my business, Beltera just went from strength to strength, and it’s connected with people. People are really loving what I’m doing and what I’m creating.

“I have ladies that will send me an old Akubra and they will say, ‘Jules, I’d really like this flower to represent my mother and this flower to reference my grandfather’, and I can create something really, really beautiful.”

Ms Holland said hats were more than a simple fashion statement.

“I love to see people that wear their hats to an inch of their lives, I think it says a lot,” she said.

“I think a hat is more of an extension of somebody – it’s part of them.

“It’s part of their character.”

Jack Harrington, 6, lives on a cattle farm in Richmond. He said he normally wore his boots in the cattle yards.

“They’re fancy – brown, black and white,” he said.

Rockhampton local Lilli Molloy went for a dress rather than the mainstream jeans.

“I chose the dress because I was a bit worried I would get too hot,” she said.

“It’s a green mini dress with white polka dots and it wraps at the waist, and I’ve got my Akubra on because I wanted to fit in – and sun safety.

“The earrings, they’re little hand-blown glass grapes from a lady who makes them down in Adelaide.”

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Butcher tells Beef Australia 2021 unusual cuts just as tasty as regular steak

Alison Meagher – perhaps better known as “Butcher Girl Alison” – feels most comfortable with a sharp knife in one hand and a slab of meat in the other.

The celebrity butcher, who is in Rockhampton for Beef Australia 2021, says there is a growing interest in using all parts of a carcase – from the nose to the tail.

“I enjoy the art of it,” she said.

“Designing recipes with secondary cuts, using the whole animal, the creativity that comes along with it — the craftsmanship.

“A lot of passion goes into it and that’s why I love it so much.

“The price of beef is just phenomenal, so I think it’s really important that we start to use all these cuts.

“The price of your scotches and your loin cuts are so expensive — there are other alternatives that are just as tender and just as flavoursome.”

Ms Meagher held a nose-to-tail dinner at Beef Australia, explaining how a carcase is broken down and how to use every part of a beast.

She said once the precise work of separating the carcase was done, even home cooks could work with unusual cuts of meat.

“It’s like frying a steak — once it’s done properly, it’s manipulated for you by the butcher or someone that knows how to do it, so easy,” she said.

“The tri tip, the tail of the rump, the muscles within the shin shank … some off the shoulder blade, the banjo, the petite tender — people are more interested, they’re intrigued.”

Ms Meagher grew up on a cattle farm in regional Victoria and has worked in the meat industry in Australia and overseas for about 20 years.

“My father is a beef producer, I love cooking,” she said.

“I was a food stylist for many years.

“I worked in London in a little butcher shop and I got quite intrigued by the art of using a knife and the craftsmanship that went along with it.

Ms Meagher said working with other women in the industry was empowering.

“I think it’s a great time for us because it’s something that’s been so male-dominated and we can be at the peak of it,” she said.

“It would’ve been nice to have someone like me saying it’s actually possible — if you’re passionate about it you can choose this as your profession.”

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Shorthorn Royalla Ventura named Supreme Champion Bull at Beef Australia 2021

A 50-year breeding program has finally paid off for the Job family of Yeoval in Central Western New South Wales, with their 34-month-old bull Royalla Ventura named the Supreme Champion male at Beef Australia 2021.

Nic Job said it was only the second time a Shorthorn had taken out the trophy but it was the win the family had wanted ever since they began coming to the triennial competition in Rockhampton.

“Let’s be honest, this is the pinnacle of the beef industry in Australia, to win in Rocky” he said.

Mr Job said Royalla Ventura was very special and he rated his sire as the best bull the family had ever bred.

“He’s just so complete — he’s a bull that moves around extremely well, he’s got a lot of thickness and he’s just so soft,” he said.

Mr Job said Royalla Ventura was out with cows until the end of February and since then he had featured at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

He had been putting on an average of three kilograms a day and gained the best part of 100kg in that time.

“With a 17-hour truck trip in the middle of that he has done pretty well,” Mr Job said.

This year marks half a century of stud breeding for the family.

Clermont Brahman Stud breeder Brett Kinnon said he was delighted to judge such an important event, but definitely felt the pressure.

“It’s a prestigious event which highlights an industry that’s in full swing and at its strength, I felt to be asked was a great honour” he said.

Mr Kinnon said the winning entry caught his eye immediately.

“He was a bull [where] all the right credentials … just come together and blend so perfectly with his breed character and his beef qualities” he said.

Mr Kinnon also had plenty of praise for the Supreme Female winner.

“I feel she had a tremendous amount of volume, she was very deep-sided, had a very good udder and ligament attachments and she was very deep, right down through her hindquarter,” he said.

When the Moongool Charolais Stud packs up and heads from Yuleba to Beef Australia, it comes with custom made portable panels with steel and wood inlays.

The enclosure houses the stud team and this competition is only the second for their heifer, Moongool Radical 24, who was crowned overall Supreme Champion Female today.

Stud principal Ivan Price said she was part of a very successful bloodline.

“She comes from a very strong pedigree and her grandsire produced our Australian record-priced bull four years ago at $83,000,” he said.

Duaringa stud Nobbs Cattle Co took out the Supreme Champion Exhibitors Group with their Brahman bull, heifer and bull calf.

Exhibitors group judge Roger Evans, of Tamworth, said the group made a good impression and showed high quality uniformity.

“We can talk about how good each animal was, but there was very little difference, very little variation,” he said.

“They were basically miniatures if you went from the lead bull … to me there was just very little wrong with them.”

Mr Evans has judged Royal shows in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, but said Beef Australia was the peak event for stud cattle. 

“It’s the pinnacle,” he said. 

“To me, it’s a three-year event and it’s one of the biggest beef industry shows, trades, expos in the southern hemisphere.”

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Beef industry rides high on good prices and rain as it steps up its sustainability credentials

Worth more than $20 billion, there’s no question the beef industry is big business in Australia, but can it also be a sustainable one?

At Beef Australia 2021 in Rockhampton, central Queensland, there’s a focus on the technology and production systems to do that. 

Launching the Beef Sustainability Report for 2021, the fourth annual report compiled by the Sustainability Steering Group, chairwoman Tess Herbert said tracking public sentiment remained a challenge.

The report aims to highlight improvements required to maintain market share and the sector’s social licence.

It identified animal welfare, economic resilience, environmental issues and maintaining a safe and healthy workforce as the key sustainability concerns.

The report found improvements in the percentage of farmers using pain relief systems in animal husbandry, compliance with live export regulations and awareness of welfare systems for cattle.

On the environment, the percentage of cattle lands set aside for conservation increased but trends in ground cover, deforestation and conservation management of grazing country were not quantified by the report.

The former president of the Australian Lot Feeders Association, Ms Herbert, said attitudes to transparency and adapting to changes in community expectations were changing.

“We have an industry-wide change in perspective that we need to be more connected to the consumer and listening to what the consumer is asking,” Mrs Herbert said.

She said increasing supply-chain value to ensure all parts of the sector were profitable was also a challenge for industry, even in a time of record cattle prices.

The report showed declines in farm productivity and a distinct difference in profitability between the top quarter of producers versus the rest, something Mrs Herbert said requires attention.

“We need to become more and more efficient and produce more from less, through technology and research and development, that will become more important to producers,” she said.

Meat and Livestock Australia, the industry’s marketing, research and development body, has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2030.

Launched in 2017, managing director Jason Strong said the CN2030 program was critical to securing the industry’s reputation as a global leader in sustainable food production but would require new technology and farm practices. 

David Foote, managing director of Australian Country Choice, one of Australia’s largest vertically integrated beef supply chains, said producers needed to embrace sustainability, even if it’s forced upon them.

“Significant customers in the beef industry have made commitments that are requiring that (carbon neutrality) earlier.

“So potentially we’re going to have supply chain pressure that’s going to ask us to do things faster than we would normally do, so it’s about embracing it and how to make it fit. 

Stockyard Beef marketing executive Ally Hart said the public perception of beef needed to be crafted through better public accountability by the cattle industry.

“They want to see you’re walking the talk on sustainability practices,” she said.

“Anything from introducing poll genes, pain relief and how much renewable energy can we use?”

Ms Hart said the industry’s carbon-neutral aim by 2030 still loomed as a steep challenge, despite a reduction in carbon emissions of 51.46 per cent on 2005 levels.

Beef Australia 2021 is the largest exhibition of cattle in the southern hemisphere, and more than 35,000 people streamed through the gates on People’s Day.

Chairman Bryce Camm said the event aimed to educate people about the work the industry is doing on issues like animal welfare and the environment. 

“It’s not about being ashamed or embarrassed about anything around those confrontational topics, It’s really being forthright and opening the discussion,” he said. 

“That’s something that the Australian Beef industry has always done quite well, to have the conversation with the wider community and ourselves as an industry.

“To really look at what we are doing and where we can advance and improve.”

Beef Australia runs until Saturday, May 8.

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Opera Queensland’s regional country music tour kicks off at Beef 2021

Fans of Slim Dusty, Dolly Parton, and centuries-old composers Puccini and Verdi unite as Opera Queensland’s latest show premiers, combining the unlikely duo of opera and country music.

The cabaret-style show Are You Lonesome Tonight marks Opera Queensland’s 40th birthday.

To celebrate, the company is travelling across Queensland in what will be its most extensive regional tour.

Opera Queensland’s director of learning, regional and community Mark Taylor said the public might think the genres are “polar opposites”, but both country music and opera focus on telling narratives through song.

“Good music is just good music. It transcends age and genre.”

Mr Taylor said while the tour premieres at Beef Australia in Rockhampton, Opera Queensland will visit 32 locations in Queensland including Cairns, Mount Isa, Winton, and Stanthorpe.

He said even a town as tiny as Windorah with a population of less than 100 will be visited.

It is also Opera Queensland’s first regional tour since COVID began.

Aboriginal and South Sea Islander artist Marcus Corowa is one of the three main performers in the show alongside other young Australian artists Irena Lysiuk and Jonathan Hickey.

While Mr Corowa lives in Sydney, he said it was a dream of his to bring the show to his hometown Bowen where his family will watch him perform.

Country music star and 21-times Golden Guitar winner Sara Storer cameos in the performance.

“Seeing it for the first time after all these months of rehearsals … [there’s] a lot of nerves but a lot of excitement,” Ms Storer said.

“After I’ve done my bit, I’m going to sit back and be lost in the music and watch how clever they are in putting two genres together.”

Yeppoon woman Kelly McCosker said it was exciting to participate as one of the 70 community choir members in Rockhampton.

Opera Queensland describes the event as diverse and accessible.

Guests are encouraged to attend in jeans, tuxedos, or ball gowns.

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Scott Morrison announces $370m in biosecurity funding at Beef Australia 2021 as Federal Budget looms

Keeping Australia safe from devastating pests and disease will be the focus of a $370 million federal government splurge announced by Prime Minister Scott Morrison today.

The funding, to be allocated in next week’s Budget, includes $67.4m for a “national surveillance information system” for Australia’s animal sector.

There’s almost $100m for an offshore assurance program to identify freight containers for intervention, $35m for research about how pests can enter Australia and $20m for a pre-border passenger screening trial.

There’s also $30m to improve biosecurity management of international mail and a $3.9m community and business awareness campaign.

“Protecting our borders is as much about protecting our livestock, crops and environment from diseases that have the potential to devastate them and the livelihoods they support,” Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison, who is at Beef Australia 2021 in Rockhampton, said Australia’s biosecurity system safeguarded the $42-billion inbound tourism industry and $53b in agricultural exports.

“This investment is about putting a protective ring around Australia to safeguard industry as well as the rural and regional communities that depend on it,” he said.

Despite COVID-19 restrictions closing Australian borders last year, primary producers have faced an onslaught of pest incursions, including the fall armyworm and white spot disease in prawns.

Even with the introduction of tough biosecurity laws in 2019, meat carrying African swine fever fragments has been detected in alarming quantities at Australian mail centres and airports, while last year khapra beetle was found in white goods imported by a major retailer.

Agriculture groups have been calling for increased biosecurity funding and today’s announcement is likely to prove popular with farmers who were disappointed by the government’s decision to axe plans for a biosecurity levy that would have taxed importers.

GrainGrowers CEO Dave McKeon said the organisation welcomed the government’s investment “toward modernising Australia’s biosecurity system”.

“These investments are going to help give our biosecurity system the capability it needs to ensure that we can keep farming Australia’s grains sustainably and profitably,” he said.

Mr McKeon said impacts on the Australian grains industry from the khapra beetle alone could rise up to $15.5 billion over 20 years, according to government reports.

In 2018, Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud announced that the government would raise $325m over three years through the levy, which proposed to charge $10 per 20-foot shipping container and $1 per tonne on bulk imports.

The 2019 Budget saw that deadline postponed, but legislation for the levy was never introduced and last year a statement from the Department of Agriculture confirmed it would not go ahead.

Speaking as part of the announcement today, Mr Littleproud said the funding demonstrated the government’s “commitment to the agriculture sector and unique environment”.

According to the government, a recent study by the University of Melbourne suggested the value of the biosecurity system was $314b over 50 years.

More than 2.5m containers and 60m mail items arrived in Australia last year.

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Cairns man takes on epic Australian road trip in electric car

Cairns man Phil Smith is travelling through rural Australia to inform people of the pros and cons of long distance trips in an electric vehicle (EV).

He said driving his car down the east coast was relatively easy thanks to regular fast charge stations between Port Douglas and Melbourne, but it was a different story further inland.

Mr Smith left Cairns about three weeks ago and has passed through Townsville, Rockhampton, Emerald, Longreach, Winton and Mt Isa.

He was in Tennant Creek, in the Northern Territory, when he spoke to the ABC.

“Once you get away from the coast and start travelling through rural and outback Queensland there’s not a lot of places that you can fast charge,” he said. 

“Thankfully there’s an app called Plugshare, which is where people share places they have found where you can charge.”

Mr Smith said he could safely travel about 400 kilometres between charges.

“You have to try and find places with high amp power plugs,” he said.

When Mr Smith can’t find fast charges or even high amp plugs, he has to use normal 240-volt electricity straight from a wall.

“Using a normal 240 volt plug will take more than a day to fully recharge my car to allow it to drive 500 kilometres,” he said.

Mr Smith said the cost of EVs was also a hurdle.

“An entry level Tesla is about $65,000, which is not a cheap car,” he said.

“But if you take into account that you only have to pay for tyres and brakes after the purchase, and if you trickle-charge your car from home, it actually works out to be cheaper.

One of the reasons for Mr Smith’s trip is to raise awareness of the lack of fast charging stations in rural Australia.

He has been tweeting regular updates on his travels.

“I’m checking in on the Plugshare app, where I’m commenting on the charging speeds, uploading photos and making comments,” Mr Smith said.

“Next I’m planning on travelling up to Katherine and then Darwin, on to Broome, then down to Perth and then Adelaide, Melbourne, Tasmania.

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