George Smith

B. 1940

My brothers and I were brought up on a dairy farm at Windera in the South Burnett. We got up early every morning to milk the cows, whatever the weather – we didn’t know any different. Most of the time we were barefoot and on frosty mornings we’d stand on the warm ground where cows had been lying (or in a fresh cow pat) to warm our feet. After we herded the cows into the bails, we had to light a fire and boil the copper so we had hot water to clean everything. We’d milk the cows, eat a quick breakfast and then catch the horses to ride to the Booubyjan school, about three miles away. It was a tiny school with about nine students. You never started school until there were enough students to make a class. My father was in the Bush Book Club and every month the mailman brought a box of books. We were allowed to read any type of book, except comics. If we got caught reading comics we got in trouble. I completed junior at Murgon High School and then a Diploma at Gatton College. At the University of Queensland, I studied Agricultural Science on a scholarship from the Department of Agriculture and Stock. After I graduated, I worked in Brisbane for two years before moving to Millaroo research station 40 miles from Ayr. My job as a soil scientist was to develop ways to farm with irrigation so the Burdekin Dam could be built. Millaroo only had about six houses and was on the Burdekin River. When we weren’t working, we spent time fishing for barramundi and camping along the river. There weren’t any shops or facilities so you had to make your own entertainment. The Italian farmers from the surrounding cane farms had great social lives and we played bocce and tennis together. Now, the dam has been built and the research station is gone. While at Millaroo, I studied externally for a doctorate degree in soil physics and moved to Toowoomba to work on soil management. Later in my career, I worked on projects in Cuba, China and Thailand. We spent two years in India where I set up a soil project for the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics. It was quite an experience and I re-visited India several times. I think everyone should visit India. It is a challenging place in many ways, but it is fascinating. Travelling overseas makes you realise how privileged you are to live in this country. Soil science was a great occupation but I have been very lucky to have had the support of a wonderful wife and family.

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