When Jessica Krauss wants to visit a ‘nearby’ friend, it is a journey of more than 100 kilometres down a rough road in the West Australian desert.
- The 500,000-hectare Carnegie Station has three residents, all aged in their 20s
- The trio manage a few thousand cattle and a small tourism operation
- The closest town is Wiluna, around 350km away
For the 22-year-old, who moved from Kalgoorlie (population 30,000) to Carnegie Station (population three), life on an isolated station has been a big adjustment.
“If you don’t [struggle] you’re lying or you’re a very strange person,” she said.
Located about halfway between Perth and Alice Springs, the property spans around 500,000 hectares.
While station life may seem like a peaceful escape from the bustling city, the work is demanding and the day’s tasks change constantly.
The only three residents do everything from managing a few thousand head of cattle, maintaining the property, and running a small tourism operation.
“You cook, you clean, you do water runs [for the cattle], you do feral culling, you do absolutely everything and a little bit more,” Ms Krauss said.
But she is enjoying the challenge and the lifestyle.
“You see so much stuff out here that you wouldn’t normally see and it’s just beautiful … camels, horses, the creeks after the rain,” she said.
It is a similar story for her 29-year-old partner, station manager Brendan Carew, who moved to Carnegie from the lush paddocks of Victoria in 2016.
“I love the country, I like working with cattle, and the longer you’re here the more you appreciate it and you see what it’s all about,” he said.
The third resident is station hand Billy Baxter, also aged in his 20s.
Carnegie Station is an oasis in the desert, with showers and beds for worn-out travellers and sometimes a literal lifesaver — they have rescued many stranded drivers.
Ms Krauss said visitors came from across the world and despite the isolation, she met people she would never cross paths with in town.
“When you’re here with three people and then all of a sudden you get people, it’s very exciting to see everyone.”
Then the floods came
But what followed was a downpour of 270mm — the station’s wettest 24-hour total since records began in 1942.
Life at Carnegie was about to reach a whole new level of isolation.
“We couldn’t even get our mail through, so pretty hard not to kill each other,” she laughed.
‘The only woman out here’
When asked what the most challenging thing was about living at Carnegie Station, Mr Carew said it was the distance to town. But for Ms Krauss, it was being the only woman.
Some days it was the seemingly trivial things like when the men “push your buttons so much and they don’t mean to”.
But mostly for Ms Krauss, the challenge is the pressure to prove she belongs.
“You have got to give a little bit of extra work just to show that you’re just as good, because it is a man’s world out here,” she said.
Ms Krauss has been at the station for about two years total but had a break in between to become a qualified veterinary nurse.
She said her advice to young women who wanted to take on a similar career was to keep going and believe in yourself, even on the days when you want to give up.
“No matter what anyone says, just keep pushing, give it all you got and prove people wrong,” she said.