Stories - Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (Queensland Government)

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In 2017, we captured the stories of some amazing Queensland women who are getting involved and leading the way.

Video stories

Keelen Mailman

First female station manager for Mt Tabor, author, and Barnados Mother of the Year 2017

My name is Keelen Mailman and I live at Mt Tabor Station near Augathella, which is almost 800 kilometres west of Brisbane. My heart is in this country. I am this country and it is me. It is me and it is my Bidjara people. All those who walked before me for thousands of years. I camped here as a child, close by on Babbiloora and Attica, just as my mother had, and her mother and hers, and so on back to the early times. Now I manage it, for my people. I protect and look after the places that are special to us, the old campsites and burial places. But a cattle station needs other work done: maintaining fences, bores, machinery, animals, roads.

I’m alone here now, but I’ve looked after myself all my life and now it’s second nature. I can change and fix a car tyre, repair a fence, service the bores, pull a cow out of the dam and shoot and skin roos. And if I had to, I could find myself a feed on this land. I’d never starve, even if I was lost for a very long time. I’ve come through lots of tough times, racism, violence, abuse and I can stand here and say I know how to survive.

That’s not how most people saw it when I came here nearly 20 years ago, a single black woman with a couple of kids and not a scrap of experience. But I’ve got a gift for learning fast. While those blokes in town were laying bets that I’d fail, I was talking to my uncles, the old stockmen, and learning how to wield a chainsaw, build a fence, use an eight-tie.

I always knew I would succeed. I am really proud that I have not let my ancestors, myself, my family and my Bidjara people down.

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