Fi Baird has a flair for fashion, an entrepreneurial spirit, a caring heart and a passion for making the live export industry the best it can be.
Story + Photos Nathan Dyer
When Fi Baird boarded a Melbourne bus bound for the Camooweal Post Office Hotel in late 2005 she was realising a dream. “I thought if I worked at a pub I’d meet people who worked on stations,” Fi laughs, recalling how she closed her eyes and pointed at a map of Australia, beginning her quest to become a jillaroo. Her finger had landed on Camooweal and the bus ride took 72 hours. “I can’t remember how many stops there were, but I do remember when we stopped in Winton I’d never felt heat like it,” she says, laughing again.
A tall blonde with a flair for fashion, Fi grew up on New Zealand’s South Island, where her parents, Terry and Marie, managed stations in the mountainous North Canterbury region. Her father, a great horseman and rodeo rider, often regaled Fi and younger brother Michael with stories of the Australian bush from his experience as a ringer in the Jericho and Rolleston areas of Queensland. She dreamed of becoming a jillaroo.
After an idyllic childhood riding horses and swimming in mountain rivers, Fi finished school and enrolled in a make-up artist course. She spent her early career working on films and music videos. In 2004, she moved to Australia for a six-month contract in Melbourne and when the contract finished headed for Camooweal.
Fifteen years on, she’s standing in the kitchen at Kalyeeda station, 120km south-west of Fitzroy Crossing, bright lipstick, sleeves rolled up on a bright blue shirt, polka dot kerchief, making beef stew for the stock camp. “It’s been a long time since I’ve cooked for a big group of people, but I’m loving it,” Fi says, explaining she’s just here for a month helping out good mate Camille Camp while the station waits for a new cook. It’s a job that brings her journey full circle.
This story excerpt is from Issue #142
Outback Magazine: April/May 2022