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This website aims to develop case studies of the development of farming practices and attendant transformations of local ecologies of defined blocks of land. Through these biographies of particular plots of land we are developing localised analyses of the wider historical trends in the political economy/ecology of the Northern Rivers.

Go to: Early family history | Involvement with the Catholic Church | History from the 1950s | Dairying | Frank’s education | The history of the Bridge and naming of Boyle Road | Changes in the local area from the 1970s | Frank and Andrea meet | Moving out of dairying | Farmers’ markets | Rice | Raising awareness of food production | The future and the food movement | Farm forestry | Work ethic | The House

Frank and Andrea meet

Frank: I went to college and I came back. I did want to go and do another 12 months, finish my Certificate 4 in Agriculture but I was needed, so I just worked, basically just worked. I became a labourer I suppose with dad and my uncle for a couple of years.

Andrea: I came out to Australia in ’86 and I met Frank, I’d travelled around the whole of Australia and I met you in ’87, wasn’t it?

Frank: I turned 18 at college. So I came back here when I was 19, back to farming and then I went travelling when I was about 24. I took 12 months off to go travelling around Australia.

Andrea: We met at Uluru, I was backpacking as an English tourist.

Frank: And I was travelling with two other girls in a troop carrier and I got as far as Uluru and needed to get some more money. I’d been travelling for 6 months and that was my plan to work somewhere and I had a friend who was there so I stayed with her for a couple of weeks and got a job and one night at the bar this [laughs] backpacker with these wild pants on came in and I said [laughs] ‘Where’d you get those pants from?” [all laugh].

Andrea: I’ve still got the pants. They were very loud. Real hippie. [all laugh]. I was working, we were both working. I was working at what was then the Sheraton doing hospitality waitressing.

Frank: It was all hospitality. So I think I was there for three months. And then we left Yulara together

Andrea: Yeah it might have been that long. After some days in Alice Springs we went up together to Three Ways And I was going east to Cairns, to go diving, and Frank was going up to Darwin to join your friends and get back on the Troop Carrier. So we kind of split and just said well, if you’re coming over to Cairns let’s make it sort of a date, of the day where I’ll phone. Cause obviously there we no mobile phones, no email, no nothing. And we tentatively booked that time, didn’t we? What was it about 8 weeks, or 6 weeks later or something?

Frank: I organised for Andrea to call me at the friend of a friend’s place at, you know 2 o’clock in the afternoon of the 6th.

Andrea: And I did. That was good wasn’t it. …And I then gave him the address of the backpackers where I was staying at in Cairns. And it might have been three weeks later, cause you then did the Gulf, didn’t you? And I went off on a diving holiday on a boat. And then when I came back I decided to move backpackers because I wanted to be on the promenade. So I left, I stuck a note on the notice board of the backpackers saying I have moved to this promenade… so that was all I could do, by then he was on his way across, via the Gulf. So the day arrived when you said you would be in Cairns. And you didn’t turn up. But I should write this down for myself actually, cause its quite a story. I thought alright, stuff this guy, ok, that’s fine. I buddied up with a girl from Sweden and we were going to go off to Cape Trib and I was going to continue on my travels.

Frank: Cause I was wooing her with the prospect of going to cape York together in the Troop Carrier, in the big four wheel drive.

Andrea: Were you a day late or were you on time? I can’t remember. I do remember getting really sad. Thinking oh, this is a bit different, what a pity, damn. And then I was going the next day.

Frank: I think we might have been a day late but I had gone to the backpackers and seen the note and I was trying to basically track her down. I might have arrived really late in the evening of the day I was supposed to be there. And went the next day to the backpackers, and saw the note, and I think I was on the promenade looking.

Andrea: I’d stepped out of the backpackers with my Swedish friend and I recognised this Troop Carrier parked across the road. I’d never seen it, Frank had just shown me photos when we were working at Yulara, “this is what I’m travelling in!” So I said “hang on”, I think her name was Ingrid, “hang on Ingrid, I just wanna check out this Troop Carrier”, anyway out came this guy from behind…. this is true … I’m not making this up. And we kind of embrace in the middle of the road in Cairns and then we “Oh you know” [laughs].

Frank: Cause we are supposed to be just friends, you know.

Andrea: Then it was like “thanks Ingrid but actually I will go with him now.” [both laugh] And yeah, that was it, cause it was so amazing cause literally it just was so easily that we could not have met up again.

Frank: Another five minutes and, who knows.

Andrea: It was quite incredible. And I would never have come to Goolmangar. I thought he was making that name up. We went up to Cape York and we went to Thursday Island.

Frank: And we travelled up with one of the ladies I had been travelling with. Judy had dropped stuff in Northern Territory, but we’d picked up a Swedish girl and a New Zealand guy. And we all travelled up the top together. It was ’87. We did the trip up, up there and then we dropped the New Zealand guy at Thursday Island because he was going to island hop to Asia. Sharon got love sick for her boyfriend so she flew from Cairns.

Andrea: She came back with us from Cairns and then she said “right you two you can take the Troop Carrier back to Sydney”. So we basically had time together, we were sleeping on the roof in swags, like really that’s just how it was. Camp fires every night. And we just tootled our way back down, Didn’t we? And then… you found out, I remember you calling your dad for his 50th birthday. We were up at the Cape or somewhere. And then I don’t know how you found out about Sharon getting married. One of Frank’s good school friends. We must have got the invite… maybe your mum told you when we phoned up to say happy birthday to your dad. So that was a big thing for me, cause then I was going to meet all his peers and his friends and school mates. So we thought right, she was getting married in Brisbane. So I went to an op-shop and brought a dress in Townsville. This bright yellow dress, I still remember it. And then his friends all helped me, you know they loaned me shoes and a leather jacket… and I was this pommy girl that was, “who’s this girl?” you know, “who’s Frank picked up?” I was from the suburbs. So I wasn’t rural and I wasn’t city, so… kind of, yeah. Suburb girl. Well they were all eyeing me off. You know, this, cause this is the Prodigal Son. No it was really fun actually.

We slept on the roof, we slept on the roof in Brisbane too, didn’t we. We were so used to… And it was up a big Catholic Church anyway. And we were waking up going “oh, there’s people in there”.

Frank: I remember waking up to the crows, the sound of the crows in the middle of Brisbane, which was incredible.

Andrea: Then you said we’ll come home, so we came home and I met your mum and dad. My mum and dad came over too, it was their 25th wedding anniversary, so they visited and then I had to leave, cause by then my year visa had expired and I had to leave the country. So I went to New Zealand for a bit and then came back and then, we were going to travel across the Trans-Siberian. We were going to go back to England. So Frank was actually, you were going to leave the farm again then weren’t you? Cause you wanted to make money, like a lot of money.

Frank: I’d only sort of been away… 9 months. I think this was about October, it would have been October. So we left, we parted in Sydney, cause Andrea went with her family to New Zealand and I headed back to home here. And then we were planning to meet in Cairns again. I was going to drive my car to Cairns, and on the way get work, earn money. I got as far as Brisbane.  My uncle had a restaurant up there and he said “do you want a job running the restaurant?”  So, I thought, I haven’t got far but it’s as good a job as any so I sort of stayed in Brisbane. I was managing the restaurant. It was great fun, it was really good. Really good experience. And my uncle had had some people who were pretty useless running the restaurant and it was run down and I started managing it and another mate came up to Brisbane and I gave him a job and then Andrea came, had to change her flight from Cairns to Brisbane. We were sort of earning money trying to put money together to go travelling again.

Andrea: I was working three jobs.

Frank: And then my sister phoned me. Cause dad had had a heart attack I spose, heart turn. And she said to me, “are you going to be a farmer or are you going to go travelling?” And sort of the guilt set in and I sort of thought well, spose I gotta come back home.

My oldest brother John, he was in Sydney. He’d gone to university and got a degree. And Helen was living in Sydney too and married and didn’t have any kids at that stage. And Phil was at uni.

Were just thinking short term?

Andrea: Short term, absolutely, short term. Just still in the travelling, roughing it, mode, Adventure.

Frank: I got the call to come back to the farm and Andrea was just sort of tagging along. We’d planned to travel together, so we’d probably unconsciously made a decision we were going to hang together for a bit.

Andrea: But we were living with your mum and dad. And then you said “oh let’s go, I’ll show you this house”. So we walked over here and I have vivid memories of this. It was all overgrown and all dilapidated and, and we were probably a bit desperate to move out as well, go somewhere; cause you know, as you can imagine classic sort of separate bedrooms, you know the whole thing and I was in Helen’s bedroom and you were in the other.

I suppose it was another adventure wasn’t it? And we didn’t even know the word renovate, we were just cleaning up and old house. So it was literally no ceiling and nothing, we camped, no power, as rough, as rough, no way would I let my parents know anything.

Frank: I suppose as a kid growing up I’d always had this idea I’d want to, especially as a teenager, do up the old house.

Andrea: But I wasn’t thinking strategically or long term, planning. We just seemed to go with our heart and just sort of get into it, and just whatever we did we got into it. And then next minute I realised oh wow, I’m actually, this is my home, this is it. So he might have proposed to me by then. I remember, at the, in the mantle-piece room. Then I phoned up my parents and said “you know that air India ticket I bought, I’m actually not going to come home now I’m going to stay” and you then asked my dad to marry me and it was all quite funny.

Frank: That was probably what forced the issue a bit; Andrea was having to leave.

Andrea: Yes. And then I do remember kind of, even if I can use the word grieving for a whole year, didn’t I, just silly thoughts like “I’m not going to be dying in England”. I didn’t plan to live over here. I was going to go back and keep doing what I was doing, which was basically law. That’s all I was going to do, and all of a sudden it sort of changed. And, but that was for a good change.

Frank: And I suppose, to take a step back. When we moved back here from Brisbane Andrea and I were both working the farm, we were dairy farmers.

Andrea: That’s right. Again it was an adventure and I didn’t think twice about it. You know I didn’t mind the cold mornings, we would milk twice a day, I would have to get up early. We’d walk across, I’d milk, I remember cause I get chill blains as well, So I remember having to wear gloves underneath the plastic gloves. Maybe if it was forever and ever but because I wasn’t thinking it was just yeah sure, I’m going to do it. Boots and all, I’m here. I’m going to get stuck into that, that sounds something different and I actually was alright at it wasn’t I?

I didn’t worry about the cows, the smell, I could do the cups and right in there. There’s photos actually of us two, milking.

Frank: I suppose in hindsight I, it would have been good to actually come back and said to mum and dad. Sat down and said, “we want to be share farmers and how about it be like this and like this?”. Whereas we just sort of bummed along, there was never any agreement as to how it would be. You know how much, where we’d split the profit, whose responsible for what.

Were they paying you at that stage?

Frank: No.

Andrea: No and this is it. I think our girls are savvy. I don’t know what happened with us, we just seemed to just go along and yes we’ll do it and really looking back  when Frank came back again is when we should have sorted things out. “What can we do, I’m here, I’m committed. I’ve got a wife”,

So did you have that conversation then a year later when your father decided to get out of dairying? And did he talk to you about doing that?

Frank: No. Family has never been good at sort of discussing the difficult issues. I suppose the thing is when we came back we were sort of in a share farming arrangement and dad wasn’t prepared to let me have any sort of say in how things were run. Even though he was supposed to, you know. I’d been working the farm with him for eight, ten years, but I was never given any responsibility. And that sort of probably annoyed me a bit. And therefore I probably wasn’t that keen on milking, on dairying. I didn’t enjoy it, I wasn’t into it. This is all hindsight, if we would have sat down and said “this is how it’s going to be” there might have been a different outcome. So we closed the dairy down in ’89 and went to beef cattle. Andrea, in the interim Andrea had gone and got a job.

Andrea: I had got a job at the Flight Centre then. So that’s my transitioning out really.

Frank: We came back here in the April of ’88. Andrea milked for eight months.

Andrea: close to a year.

Frank: And then got a job, got a job at Flight Centre, because we weren’t making any money out of the farm, we had no money.

 

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