Melbourne Polytechnic student Eliza White wanted to work in international aid after school.
A year spent working on a remote cattle station made her reconsider and switch her focus to agriculture. At Melbourne Polytechnic she’s learned everything from installing fencing to artificial insemination, and hopes to work as a jillaroo after graduation.
When Eliza White left school she wanted to pursue a career in international aid. But a year spent working on a cattle station in the Northern Territory changed her mind. “I realised I could still do the type of work I wanted within agriculture. I loved every minute of it. I worked in admin and did some cleaning, but I really wanted to be outdoors working on the station.” Eliza, who grew up on a hobby farm in Echuca, suddenly found herself in a township 100km from Darwin living a very different kind of life. “It’s a different lifestyle, like what you hear about when your parents were growing up. You know everyone in your neighbourhood and there’s a real community feeling. The scenery is spectacular and I love the hot weather.”
The experience gave Eliza confidence in her career choice and she enrolled in the Bachelor of Agriculture and Land Management at Melbourne Polytechnic, where she is now in her second year. She says the course offers a good mix of science subjects and practical experience. “We’re doing everything from fencing, learning about AI (artificial insemination), to tractor work, cattle work and motorcycle skills. Other students I know who are studying veterinary science haven’t spent as much time with animals as we have.”
When she finishes her course, Eliza is hoping to work as a jillaroo on a cattle station, where she’ll be mustering cattle for weeks at a stretch. She also has an interest in journalism, and is considering a stint on a country paper. “If I’m not tough enough to be a jillaroo then I think agriculture journalism is a good option!” she says. “I was always concerned that I wouldn’t hack it and be able to keep up with the boys, but there are more and more women working as jillaroos now.” Once she gets more experience under her belt she wants to work as a consultant. “I’d need to have a good practical understanding of farming first.”
The 21-year-old is optimistic about her future career. “A lot of people ask if I just want to be a glorified farmer. But there’s so much press about the skills shortage and the demand for qualified agriculture workers. There’s a lot of opportunity in farming.”
This year, Eliza is looking forward to studying more specialised subjects as well as getting to grips with the business side of farming. “There’s a really nice mix of people on the course, people from farming and non-farming backgrounds. Some have been dairy farmers their whole lives. The course is broadening my understanding of what you can do within agriculture. It’s a really good course.”
Bachelor of Agriculture and Land Management