Volunteers who have worked tirelessly around the clock for Beef Australia 2021 say watching the crowd dribble out and closing the gates for the last time will be bittersweet.

More than 800 volunteers, staff and contractors from across the country made Australia’s biggest beef Industry event, which happens every three years, possible.

Volunteer Michelle Kinbacher greeted hundreds of people as they streamed through the gates of the Rockhampton Showgrounds.

Sunset through centre ring at Beef Australia 2021, silhouette of a woman wearing a hat.

More than 60,000 people have made their way through the gates of Beef Australia 2021.(

ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler

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“It’s such a big event, and it takes so much putting together, and if I can help someone, I will.”

This was Ms Kinbacher’s second time making the four-and-a-half-hour trip from Biggenden to volunteer at the event.

“My husband comes up, and it’s like a bit of a holiday for us as well because, on properties, you don’t get away every day or for a holiday,” she said.

“I think I’ll be back here in three years.”

Cleaners Cassandra and Natalie

Cassandra and Natalie in orange high vis vests, holding a rubbish bag and cleaning tools.

Cassandra Stanley and Natalie Harkess became friends while working as cleaners at Beef Australia.(

ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler

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Gracemere woman Cassandra Stanley took a break from her job as a full-time carer for her husband to work as a cleaner.

“[We’re] cleaning toilets and doing the bins and just making sure that there’s not paper and stuff laying around on the floor – and just keeping everything stocked up in the toilets for the ladies and gents,” she said.

Ms Stanley said she had met many friendly characters during the week.

“When people say, ‘Thank you. It’s like aw, thanks – it’s great to be appreciated it really is and people are so friendly,” she said.

“I mean, it kills the feet, but I would definitely do it again.”

As well as cleaning, Natalie Harkess was involved in the eight-week setup and will be involved in the pack down.

“I work in the afternoon as well [at a local hospitality venue] – 15 hours a day I’m doing, so yeah I’m a bit tired,” she said.

Both women only just realised they lived around the corner from each other.

“We’ve only just met as well. We don’t know each other,” Ms Harkess said.

The cleaning duo said despite the odd nauseating situations – working at the event was a great experience.

“The stallholders, they’re giving us lots of water so we’re not dehydrated.

“We get to see Beef [Australia] and we get to work it.”

Cattle gatekeeper Gordon

Gordon Ryan, blue shirt, dark hat, smiles leaning on gate that says

Rockhampton volunteer Gordon Ryan says working the gates takes “a little bit of common sense” and cattle knowledge.(

ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler

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Rockhampton man Gordon Ryan volunteered at Beef 2018 and often gives his time to local services and organisations.

“Right from the fire service, SES, anything that happens – the whole of Australia runs on volunteers,” he said.

Mr Ryan spent more than five hours a day at the cattle gates.

“It’s opening and closing the gates for the cattle to move in and out of the ring, so that we can keep the public separated from the cattle, so no-one gets hurt,” he said.

He said meeting different people was his highlight and what he liked was working with the other volunteers.

“Plus, we get to see all the cattle at the show go in and out, talk to cattle people and their handlers. It’s very good,” he said.

“There are some funny characters around the place.”

Mr Ryan said he hoped some new volunteers would join him at Beef 2024.

“A lot of volunteers are retirees,  and quite a few take time off work just to do the event,” he said.

“We’re not going to be around forever.”

Security guard Sarra-Lee

Sarra-Lee Britton in high vis security guard vest scanning QR code, smiling.

Rockhampton local Sarra-Lee Britton says she has enjoyed every minute of working as a security guard at Beef 2021.(

ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler

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Sarra-Lee Britton gained her qualification to work as a security guard last year.

“[I do] some big hours, but I know a lot of the other guards have been putting in bigger.

“It’s been a really good crew to work with.”

With the job of scanning people out of the event, the Rockhampton mum said her voice was wavering.

“I’m speaking to hundreds of people every shift – but I come to work with a smile on my face and leave with a smile on my face,” she said.

“Everyone’s having a great time. Everyone’s pretty well-behaved.

“I’m here until close, so I see them when they’re at their most jolly, you could say, but they’re definitely a good crowd this year.”

Portaloo maintainer Arthur

Arthur wearing a bright orange button up shirt, worn out kangaroo leather hat, portaloos behind.

Arthur Patterson loves putting his hand up to work at events like Beef Australia.(

ABC Capricornia: Erin Semmler

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Arthur Patterson travelled 600 kilometres from Brisbane to Rockhampton as a contractor with a portaloo company.

“We do a few hours, but you do the necessary thing to keep the event happening,” he said.

“My work involves the rubbish collection, meeting the bin truck and just helping out with the guys out doing the rubbish, the hand cleaning of the toilet blocks and shower blocks.”

The 55-year-old’s “normal job” is a pump truck driver, but he jumps at the opportunity of working for any events.

“Like any other event, without anyone that does the clean-up, it would be a bit messy and disorganised.

“We get a lot of, ‘thanks, keep up the good work and thanks for all the hard work we do’.

“You’d be surprised a lot of people, your everyday punter, actually recognises what we’re here for.”

‘It’s great to be appreciated’: Meet the volunteers and staff behind Beef Australia
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