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- Created on Sunday, 22 June 2008 03:47
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Believe it or not, my life started well before Big Brother 2006. In fact I just squeezed in to being a '70s baby, which means I remember "Countdown" and "My Secret Valley", which was when we had TV reception. That finished (I'm not sure if it was the fault of the TV stations, or just an inability to keep replacing the 40ft tall antennae that constantly got destroyed by rampaging cockatoos during the summer storms) and I turned to books, which in my household meant either Christian children's stories or mum's proudly kept collection of Encyclopedia Britannica.
Well that was really where my thirst for knowledge of all things outside the realms of my family's farm actually began. Until I dove into these large seas of knowledge, my only interests were running amok in the bush or helping Mum and Dad hew out a viable existence from the Brigalow scrub-land.
However as the youngest of 11 children and the one born to take on the land, Dad didn't want his son to be an academic or get too many "bright ideas" (such as not following him as a farmer..), so he put an end to my adventures and book reading by ensuring that all my time not spent in my half-dozen-or-so-kid classroom at the Moonie State School, was spent working out on his rapidly expanding station.
It was always a contentious issue between my parents, the amount of work their young son was doing on the farm as opposed to in the classroom or on the sports field, so in the end Mum won and I was sent off to boarding school in Toowoomba for most of my seven long years away, learning how to "fit in".
I'd never really known hurt like what I felt at boarding school, it was a strange and unexplainable thing. The only time the pain ever went away was when I was back on my land with my dogs, either working or just mucking about with them. That same pain you feel when you're apart from your lover, that unrelenting want to be with them that you just can't fix other than by being with them, that was the pain. I still get it. It was at it's worst being inside the Big Brother compound, because there I didn't know how my land was; I was totally and utterly disconnected.
In 1996, at 17, I was finally free of boarding school. I was accepted into Uni to study linguistics which was ironic because I never felt accepted at school or able to properly be able to communicate. I didn't go, the call of the land was too strong. My father wouldn't have me work for anyone else, so I set up camp in the shearers quarters on his different farms, "jackarooing" for a few years. However that other pull grabbed hold, the pull to know, to know what's over there and there. So on a secret trip to Sydney with my two best mates Thes and Lydia, I was approached several times by modelling agents ... ha ha, yeah, like in the movies, and a week later I was in Europe, hooning 'round the catwalks and appearing in magazine stands.
Well the struggle between me wanting to be on the farm and also to see the world went on for years, culminating in a mammoth thirteen-month world trip where I set out with just a bag and a zeal to see it all, smell it all, taste it all and most of all just ride the wind wherever it took me. By the time my hair started falling past my shoulders 'PG mermaid' style, I headed home having covered 46 countries, fallen in love in Mongolia, and lived out my childhood dreams of being what I'd read about.
The time came for my father to give me some control and boy did I love every long day passionately increasing productivity and sustainability as well as drought proofing the property to the best of our ability. I leaped into the role as manager of our 45,000 acre property, so much so that by year's end I'd driven my body into the ground and busted my stomach open with a massive hernia. It was clear I needed to have a break from the farm to readjust how 'over the top' I was and also to recover from the operation.
The next year was the year of true inner reality attending Agricultural College in Victoria; I finally accepted I was not going to have that white wedding my mother was desperate for. But it was a long hard road to reach that acceptance, one that too many young men in the same predicament veer off from, into the abyss of self hatred and worse, the tree of total denial. Thankfully I did survive, because I learnt to talk to others and to cry; in fact, learning to cry was the best lesson I ever had. I then knew that I was going to head home to my land with a man and make a difference in the world. I didn't have to live by some set of rules. I was going to take life on and make the path easier for anyone else making that journey.
I fell in love, was dumped, fell in love again, was dumped, sold out my strong morals and slept around to get back at my absurd, picture perfect dream of a future that I realised was becoming totally unrealistic. I truly was feeling like the only bloke in the world that wanted to live out an honest monogamous and dedicated life on the land.
So you are probably reading this feeling rather confused (or a bit ill at my over lov'n) at the fact that I'd leave my farm, which I'd just stocked with 1000 new ewes and a dozen pure Dorper rams to go and get locked up in the Big Brother house.
Truth is, I was bashed by a hate-filled gang earlier in the year and left for dead, as well as having a lifetime of self denial due to societal conformity, atop a fear that too many Australians had a negative view of those who didn't fit in. So I had waited long enough for someone to show Australia that it isn't necessary to fit in, that living your own life happily is what is truly important. I left my happiness to share it with Australia by way of a show that takes the lives of a select few into the homes of millions.
I wasn't really prepared for either the show or Australia's response to what I did. I didn't prepare for it mentally, as I thought I'd be out in the first month at the most. But despite my pleadings, the viewers wanted to see more (maybe they just thought if he stays in long enough he might just go bonkers!!) and I was kept on in people's lounge rooms for 99 days.
Those days, which really words can't describe, ended with a live screaming crowd of over 2000, a TV audience of almost 2 million, a prize haul which included "the world's gayest car", 3 adventure holidays to remote locations around the world and the greatest prize of all; acceptance from a nation.
Later that night I was told some rather bad news from my family ..my farm had plunged further into drought with massive losses to my sheep and total devastation of my crops, my house was broken into and my travel journal and photos stolen, and my best bitch was dead after consuming a dingo bait.
The fact is, however, I've met thousands of people whose lives I was able to touch and dozens who say I made theirs liveable, and that was beyond my expectation and far outweighs the pain of being separated from my happiness on the farm and from my family.
In order to keep on top of the costs of maintaining my lease and remaining sheep, I went on the BB promo tour...mate that was one crazy ride, where ordinary Australians are thrust out into the clubs and shopping centres around the country and screamed at like rock stars... It is easy for it to go to your head, so I could understand why many in the industry of fame even if it is fleeting, do get a bit beyond themselves.
I kept my focus on what I was doing; paying bills, however as soon as I got off the ride the Charity requests started pouring in and I felt obliged to use my 15 minutes to highlight those charities that are important to me. So off I went again raising awareness and much needed funds for Women's Cancer Research, the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Youth Mental health, Drought Assistance, Canteen, PFLAG and World AIDS Day to name a few.
However the drought just kept getting worse and I had to give up being an 'absentee' farmer worrying about helping others and get back and help my sheep, as the dams dried up and the feed blew away with the dust storms. I was very fortunate to have a growing close group of mates that helped me through those months by being there for a yarn on the phone, sending an upbeat email or coming out and lending a hand.
Even this site with its comments left on the guestbook and blogs as well as the forum chattering really helped remind me that I need to stick it out and never give up on my dream, after all that was the message that I extolled through my time on BB06.
Then one of those phone calls occurred, where there is thunder and lightening and a hell of a lot of yelling and Kyooing from Dave!!!! (I have had a few....). Suddenly I was at Mum and Dad's asking their advice whether I should go back to the realms of reality TV. At first they were...'David we have been through enough, so have you, its time to settle into what you love and where you can be rewarded for your efforts'.
However when I mentioned that it was 'Dancing with the Stars', and they were keen to highlight drought affected farmers and their plight as well as the money from voting going to a drought affected farmers' charity they were so supportive, even insisting I go and start packing. So a couple of days later I found myself in Melbourne rubbing shoulders with DWTS best ever line up....It was NUTS to say the least. On the way I reached the pinnacle of show business by being a celebrity contestant on Deal or No Deal, which started to prepare me for being called a 'celebrity'.
I stayed on the show till episode 8 which really was insane , I'm not sure how my beautiful partner Eliza and I kept getting through week after week cause it certainly wasn't my dancing ability, lets just say I danced like a cane toad with the flu. But hey, out of it all came amazing good, not only did I overcome some serious self doubt, but was able to give Australia a human face to the drought which is devastating the nations farmland.
Following another 4 months away from the farm I returned with a new vigour complete with the determination only the support of millions of Australians could give to stay on and keep my farm and its viability from blowing away with the drought induced dust storms. Having a lifelong dream to be able to supply my products direct to the public I finally had the zeal, and thanks to such low rainfall and no funds to plant crops, added time on my hands to put my dream into practise.
By June 2007 it became apparent that the home-delivered plan that I had from my Goondiwindi butcher was not really working, so I bit the bullet and with family and mates began attending farmers markets each weekend...so my life became insane, cramming my farming work into Monday, Tuesday and some of Wednesday, then taking the lambs into Goondiwindi late at night to the local abattoir then going in helping the butcher out on Thursday, then racing to Brisbane and doing home deliveries along the 5 hour drive, waking up at 4am to attend the market then doing deliveries in the afternoon. Sunday began at 2am with a drive to Noosa attending the markets doing deliveries then returning to the farm by 2 am hopefully to start the week all over again.
In amongst doing all that was required with the sheep and lamb business I also took up some of the many TV appearances on talk shows and one appearance saw me as a Judge on Foxtels 'The Singing Office', it really was a funny period of my life where I'd go from putting a mob of sheep away, unsaddling the horse within a few hours of being treated like a star, some shows were about promoting my lamb such as 'Ready Steady Cook' and '9am with David and Kim' and yet others were about highlighting the human impact of drought as well as depression with rural men.
I was driven and my mates helped out in every way shape and form, from waking up early to do the farmers markets with me, to mustering sheep, to exploring information on the internet for hours on end. Unfortunately my health really began to deteriorate and I had several close shaves with running off the road and realised it wasn't worth putting people at risk with my exhausted driving, so we moved butchers to the Gold Coast and my sister and brother in-law became involved to help fund the next level by buying a refrigerated van rather then using the hired one. A few more months past and our customer base really began to take off and we outgrew our butcher so we made the plunge into our own facility. Thanks to the hard work and incredible hours that were put in, we were attending over 50 farmers markets and had our own direct to the public store on the Gold Coast with our own fleet of branded refrigerated mobile shops and a brilliant Team of people that kept the wheels of this dream of mine turning.. Not to mention the swag of medals and awards we won for a product made with love. What made my product different was that it was all about the lamb, producing the best most humane product in the market place and giving it directly to the consumer.
Now after supplying Lamb to Farmers Markets for 2 years, the overwhelming demands became too much, as did the ability to supply an ever increasing customer base, hell at my most excited we were moving 150 head a week, but alas you cant burn the candle at both ends and running a farm during drought as well as all these markets, a Gourmet Dog Food Production Line and butchery made me realise that I had become my dad and work was my life....spending no time with friends and family...and basically not enjoying life anymore.
So after some long and careful consideration I scaled back my sheep farming operation and absolved myself of the Lamb Supply Business, Gourmet Dog Food Production and Butchery to concentrate on my other Passion....Dogs. November 2009 saw me attend The World Dog Games in Sydney as a Dog Behavioural Expert and Presenter and made me realise that the doors I thought I had closed were still open and I could look beyond the farm in the foreseeable future.
Keeping a foot on the farm with just under 1000 hairy cleanskin breeding ewes (all with their tails still on) up on the family station who are looked after by my Free Ranging Guardian Dogs, the Maremmas, George and Tom are bloody incredible, they keep away all foxes and dingoes as well as crows and stray dogs from the precious lambs in their care.
Demand grew for my ability to help others with their dog problems and soon enough I was crisscrossing the continent doing training seminars with Shelters and Pounds to assist them to understand the key I reckoned had been lost on may rescue groups, that is to improve dogs behaviours and emotional wellbeing through training.
This Career working with Dogs has seen some major opportunities come my way in the field of training dogs for the front line. Taking on the role as ParaRescue Australia's Dog Unit Team Leader I was fortunate to train detection dogs for Explosives and Narcotics and was opened to the world of Detection Dogs keeping Australia safe from exotic species, however whilst Parachuting from 300ft on a training exercise in the Lockyer Valley west of Brisbane, I had a very bad fall which resulted in 4 broken bones and severe muscle and ligament damage. After several weeks confined to a bed with the odd wheelchair excursion I have finally began the process of learning to walk again, which is a great relief to think that soon i will be able to be doing things for myself and return to what I love....being active and making the lives of dogs better.
Every chance I get I keep learning about ways to improve the lives of dogs and their human family members, I travel extensively and work with great trainers around the world exchanging ideas and techniques, just prior to my accident I returned from a study tour of the UK in using teaching dogs (that is dogs that teach dogs) I was elected to the Association of Pet Dog Trainers National Committee, where I hope to continue to make a difference for mans best mates.
One of the main problems I saw being a Canine Behaviourist was that sure I along with every other dog trainer could 'fix' owners issues with their dogs, but what happened when we left... often things would slip back into their old routines, so in my usual 'I don't have enough to do style', I decided to build the Australian Canine Sports and Training Centre, a place where dogs and their owners bond through play, training and harnessing of natural instincts. On our 9 acre site we have a 340 metre duel lure Greyhound Trial Track, Stock Dog Arena for working sheep dog workshops and herding trial training, Flyball, Treibball, Agility and more herding fields as well as Australia's first DockDogs facility...so in essence we cater to every dog's and their owner's needs.
In Stage 2 of our facility we have an Scent Detection and EarthDog complex planned as well as an Indoor Arena for Seminars and Canine Freestyle...because it seems their is just an endless list of things we can do with our dogs and I reckon the more we can get people to interact with their dogs the happier we will all be.
For more information on my Dog Training go to www.lovesdogs.com.au