Australia’s dairy farmers help to feed the world. Many of them also spend their spare time working in their local communities.
Koondrook dairy farmer Steve Thomas has enjoyed a bird’s eye view of his children’s sporting careers.
As coach, runner, umpire and general helper in both football and cricket, Steve has seen their progression up close, while playing his part in keeping local sporting clubs afloat. His wife Tania does similar volunteer work in netball.
Running an electrical contracting business along with their 200-hectare farm Between Echuca and Swan Hill means volunteering is a busy but fulfilling commitment.
“They’re long days, but I sleep well on Saturday nights after doing the running,” Steve jokes.
Steve had a lot of support when he was growing up on the farm and playing sport, and he was determined to pay if forward.
“I always thought I didn’t have kids for someone else to look after,” he says. “Someone helped me to get through my junior sporting days, so I thought I should get back into it to help someone else, and in any case, I had the best view in the house to watch my kids go through their lives.”
When Steve played cricket and football, dairy farmers regularly held president and coaching roles. Today there are fewer farmers in the region, but Steve is determined to do his bit to help the local sporting community.
“Clubs don’t function by themselves and there are only a select few putting their hand up,” he says.
Now 50, Steve is still runner for Koondrook-Barham football seniors, although he will struggle to get to away games this year as the farm switches to autumn calving.
He wants to continue contributing as best he can. “What you put into it; you get back out of it.”