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What I do – Michael Eckford

Michael Anderson-Eckord runs cultural training programs and shares his cultural stories to inform others about Aboriginal language, land, culture and country.

My name is… Michael Anderson aka Michael Eckford or my tribal name Ghillar, meaning bird who invented the comeback boomerang.

I’m from… Euahlayi country which is near Lightning Ridge in Far Western NSW. Their land runs up to Diranbandi in South-West Queensland and down to the Barwon River in Brewarrina.

I live in… Mogila Station which is 12 km east of the town of Goodooga.

I’m employed as a…
I’m director/chairman and manager of the pastoral property Mogila Station working for my people who are the traditional owners.

I have been in the job for…
going on 11 years.

I got my job by…
my family requested that I come home and take over management, so that we get to manage our own land and country. I grew up on this property with my whole family. We took it over from non-Indigenous owners and it is the most easterly part of our clan’s territory. It’s also where not only my grandfather, but my great uncles were born. It’s my mother’s father’s country and we call it Currawillinghi. We own that place now and the South Western portion of Mogila as well.

I chose this career because…
in my prior life I practiced as a prosecutor in criminal law in Sydney and as a Director of Research. I’ve done a whole range of things. I’ve been a diplomat and ambassador for the Australian Government under Gough Whitlam. What made me come home was just timing. I’d been 37 years away from my country and with all the modern communications and technology, I realised I wouldn’t miss out on much on country. I do a lot of politicking, and I’m striving to get back to the traditional way of managing country. We fought for land rights and I thought it’s now time I stood up for the land. It maintains my connection to country. We have a lot of stories on this country and that’s why I’m here. We’ve been economically viable from the time we started 10 or 11 years ago and we’ve never taken government funding. We started with a baby account of $100 and we’re doing very well now!

In a typical day at my job… we normally wake up around 5.30am or 6am, including daylight saving, and we don’t finish until 6 or 7pm. When you’re a property manager and looking after things, there’s always something happening. We run cattle and sheep on this property. We lamb-mark them, turning the rams into weathers by castration and the meat goes to be sold in shops. We shear the merino sheep and sell the wool at wool markets for clothing and carpets. The industry is getting better, especially now. We also breed cattle and sell them 10 to 14 months old at mainstream markets for food.

My job is… very busy and very tiring. It’s a lot of responsibility when you have others working on a 100,000 acre property. You have to keep your vehicles, brakes, quad bikes in order – all your mechanical equipment. You have to plan each year ahead, working out what you need to do each month. When it rains you have to drench your animals, put chemicals into the sheep, so they don’t get worms or get sick. We use a chemical that is environmentally friendly not a poison; it’s an organic product to kill the fly’s eggs or they’d eat the sheep alive. Next week, we’ll take the young cattle off their mothers and put them into another paddock. The mothers are also giving birth so we’ll muster them, tag them and keep track of around 5,600 sheep and 300 head of cattle. We also keep an eye on the 9000 sheep and 300 cattle that other people run on our land. That’s a lot of work caring for that many animals.

The people I work with are… all young Aboriginal people because I want to maintain their interest and provide employment for them, and not let them get bored.

The personal qualities you need to do my job include…
knowledge of country, animals and this industry. You need the ability to plan daily to yearly routines, and understand the money market and its trends. That puts you in good stead so that you know how to plan and forecast your possible income. It means lots of budgetary planning ahead.

Looking to the future, I think I’ll…
I’m hoping to expand our industry, as well as commence running a rural agricultural school for kids who don’t do well at school or who are expelled from school. It will be a more practical type of schooling so they can become metal workers, woodworkers, plumbers and electricians and do their schooling from the ages of 12 or 13 years in a residential situation here. They’ll need to understand math’s, and contracts too, in order to build a cattle yard because it will make more sense to them. They also need the ability to be able to negotiate and talk to other people. We’re an oral culture and they have a greater opportunity and more confidence to talk their way through the business.

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