Nick and Sophie Dohnt have created an agricultural aviation business that musters around 750,000 cattle each year in the NT and Queensland.
Story Martin Auldist Photo Darren Clark
He’s still young, but you don’t have to talk to Nick Dohnt for very long to understand he’s not a bloke who likes to let the grass grow under his feet. At 15 years of age, he left school in his hometown of Deniliquin in southern NSW, armed with nothing but a fierce determination to forge a career in the cattle industry of Australia’s vast north. Fast forward two decades and Nick, together with his wife and fellow former Deni local, Sophie, owns and operates Borderline Helicopters, a thriving agricultural aviation company servicing much of northern Queensland and the NT.
“When I was a kid we lived in town in Deni, not on a farm,” Nick says. “I didn’t see the point in school, and I was too young to be an apprentice. I knew I wanted to work in agriculture though, and one of my cousins had just come back from the Katherine Rural College [now Charles Darwin University]. I saw that as a way to get a start, so I quit school after year 10, enrolled myself in the same course and moved to Katherine.”
After completing a Certificate II in Beef Production – Agriculture, Nick soon found employment. “In 2003 I got my first job as a ringer with the Australian Agricultural Company on Austral Downs west of Camooweal,” Nick says. “After that, I bounced around a few other stations, mostly contract mustering in the Gulf and Cape York.”
In 2008, Nick returned to Austral Downs to take up a position as head stockman, but things were about to change. “I’d had a lot of experience mustering cattle, but always as part of the ground crew. I’d started thinking about flying choppers and had been saving hard.”
“In February 2009, I sold my HiLux, borrowed a little bit of money and shifted to Maroochydore [Qld] to start training for my commercial helicopter licence,” Nick says.
This story excerpt is from Issue #147
Outback Magazine: February/March 2023