real life

British backpacker Ellie came to Australia on holiday. 3 years later, she’s working at a cattle station.

In January 2019, Ellie Daborn came to Australia for a holiday. The British backpacker was exploring and working simultaneously – and having a ball doing both. But eight months into her trip, Ellie's visa requirements meant she had to do three months of farm work in order to stay longer in Australia.

So off she went to the Northern Territory with her partner to start her time in agriculture. 

Initially, Ellie wasn't sure what the Top End would entail for her. But her experience there led to a passion for the outback – and she hasn't looked back since. 

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Video via Mamamia.

Speaking to Mamamia, Ellie said that at the eight-month mark of being Down Under, she realised both her and her partner wanted to stay longer. But of course, that came with a catch.

In order to extend their stay, the couple had to embark on regional work of some kind, such as fruit picking or farm work. And so they decided for the next 88 days to try their hand at some farm work in order to get a second-year visa. 

So when Ellie and her partner arrived at Newcastle Waters – a working town and cattle station in the middle of the Northern Territory, she initially felt quite nervous. 

"When I arrived in Australia, I think because so many Brits have this perception of Sydney and Melbourne as being bustling cities and funky lifestyles, I didn't know what to expect in the outback. At this point I was 23, and was nervous to go somewhere that I didn't know much about," she said to Mamamia

"The first few days, my partner and I were of the mindset 'let's just get these 88 mandatory days done and then go back to Sydney'. But after just a few weeks, we both realised we had a love for the outback – it was so different to anything either of us had experienced in the UK."

Ellie really did love it, because she's remained ever since. And people online love watching her day-to-day living at a cattle station, building herself a strong TikTok platform with over 40,000 followers.

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As for what a regular day in the life looks like for Ellie, it's all early mornings, hard work, and lots of new experiences. 

Ellie is a station cook at the cattle station which has 41 members of staff, plus at any given time around five to ten contractors. And Ellie is the person that cooks for them all. 

The day starts bright and early at around 4am. The first thing is cooking up a big breakfast for the workers which is typically served around 5am. 

Next on the list is 'smoko', which usually involves a sweet treat or two for around 9:30am. Recipe highlights that Ellie's shown on TikTok include biscoff blondies, bagels, carrot cake cheesecake and morning muffins. Of course being so far away from main town centres with supermarkets, Ellie has had to be pretty resourceful and handy with recipes, grocery orders and accessible ingredients. But it's all a part of the job description. 

"The workers get quite a big feed throughout the day, but it makes sense when you consider the hard work they do. For most of the guys, they have about four big meals a day," Ellie said.

After all that, there is indeed more cooking for Ellie to do. But lunchtime is more of a 'help yourself' affair, where there's a fully stocked fridge with plenty of leftovers and sandwich fillings to be had. 

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So for the afternoon, Ellie then organises supper/the evening meal which is served at around 7pm. 

And Ellie has showcased lots of dinner recipes on social media too, including nachos, lentil salads, salsas, beef wellingtons, curried sausages and even a laksa or two.

By 9pm, it's bedtime. 

"My grandma used to work as a chef, and so I always grew up in the kitchen. I remember spending time with her baking stuff given both my parents worked full time. I also loved making the evening meal for my family, and as a teen I would be the one to cook dinner," Ellie said to Mamamia

But understandably, cooking for 41 people is a whole other ball game. And it's one that takes lots of forward planning and resourcefulness to ensure no food wastage. 

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"At university I studied nothing to do with food, but actually business studies. So when the job became available to be the cook at the cattle station, I figured I would just fill in for a couple of weeks. But it turned out that I loved it, and nearly two years have gone by now."

There are some things that Ellie isn't crazy about when it comes to outback life, one of them being the heat given she's used to the chilly British weather. And in Newcastle Waters, sometimes during the wet season, temperatures can get to nearly 50 degrees. 

Of course Ellie misses her family back home too.

But she says that working on the cattle station and given it's so far away from big towns, the people she works with have become like a second family to her. And that's something she cherishes.

"It's definitely like a community vibe here – we are a bigger station than others, so it's more like a really small town but I've made friends for life here, and they are really my family away from home. But the other thing about the outback that I love is the remoteness in itself – to get away from the 'hustle and bustle', not being stuck in traffic. It's peaceful with the stars in the sky and the scenery."

Originally, Ellie decided to make a TikTok account in order to show her family back at home what she was up to in the outback. 

"I saw a few 'day in the life' videos and thought they were super interesting, so I decided to make one, put the video up, switched off my phone for the night and 12 or so hours later, I found that lots of people had viewed it," Ellie shared.

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Just from that first video, Ellie had gained over 800,000 views and 80,000 likes.

"I was shocked. But it made me think maybe there's a gap in the market for this sort of content, and people want to know more about what life in rural Australia is like. And they've been really supportive and enthusiastic to know what happens at the cattle station."

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As for what the future holds, Ellie says she hopes to see more of Australia. 

"Just last week I actually got my visa approved to stay another year here in Australia, which is amazing. I think my partner and I will stay here at the cattle station for a little longer since we're enjoying it so much, and then maybe do some more travelling. I actually haven't been able to see much of this country and I know there is more to see."

And from what she's learned on the job, Ellie says she now has a wealth of knowledge she can bring to future roles too. 

"The time management skills I have learned are relatable to any industry. And although sometimes it feels like there aren't enough hours in the day, I now know how to be more organised, and I think that's something that people in this sector are particularly good at," she said to Mamamia

Ellie also has a much better understanding of what the agriculture industry looks like – arguably a far greater understanding than what many Australians in the city would know. 

"There is so much you can do in the agriculture industry. From an outsider's perspective, you think it's just farmers, animals and lots of physical work. And part of it does look like that. But I've now realised there are so many things you can do, so many skills you can develop and the experience of working on a cattle station is unlike any other. And in my experience, I've never felt more welcomed into an industry like this one," Ellie said. 

"The experiences I have had will stay with me for a long time. And I'm thankful for that."

You can follow Ellie on Instagram @britinthebush, or her TikTok here. For more information on working at a cattle station, you can click  here

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Feature Image: Instagram @britinthebush / @sophiemaree94.

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