Dick Estens, of Moree, NSW, is a cotton farmer, orange grower, pilot, philanthropist and patron of the arts. He also loves a challenge.

Story Kirsty McKenzie  Photo Ken Brass

By his own admission, Dick Estens, AO, likes a challenge. In the mid-2000s, when the rest of Australia’s citrus farmers were scaling back or getting out of an industry that was being strangled by imports of juice concentrate, the Moree cotton farmer decided to establish an orange grove. 

In the late 1990s, Dick decided to tackle what governments had deemed the “intractable problem” of Aboriginal unemployment by founding the Aboriginal Employment Strategy (AES). With support from cotton farmers, financial institutions and the odd grant, the not-for-profit AES has put more than 20,000 Aboriginal people into jobs and career-path development over the past 30 years. 

The lure of the challenge, and Dick’s never-ending drive to push boundaries, probably explains why he’s determined to continue to fly a plane for at least the next eight years, until he turns 80, when he will have clocked up more than 60 years as a pilot.

This story excerpt is from Issue #139

Outback Magazine: October/November 2021