At the age of just 23 Annabelle Coppin has risen to become a spokesperson and a leading light in the live-export industry from her family cattle property in the Pilbara, WA.

Story By Fleur Bainger

“My first memory as a kid on the station was probably killing a cow with my parents, and looking into the guts. I was fascinated and I just loved it.” Annabelle Coppin is recalling her childhood on her family property Yarrie Station. The end-of-production-chain experience had a significant impact on the fearless, young West Australian, fuelling a hunger in her to know more about the Australian beef industry and a desire to promote it to the world. 
Annabelle’s life has revolved around beef from that time on, whether it be joining her livestock on a shipment headed for Indonesia, discussing the live export trade on national radio, or advising heads of industry where research and development funds would be best spent.
Now just 23, she regularly rubs shoulders with decision makers more than twice her age, who come away confident she’ll make a difference in the live-export sector, and rural industries as a whole.
Annabelle grew up in relative isolation on her family’s 500,000-hectare property in the Pilbara, 220 kilometres east of Port Hedland and 90km north-east of Marble Bar. Her mother, Ann, says she started showing signs of being a strong, independent person by the time she was two. “It’s probably got a bit to do with growing up in the bush,” Ann says. “There’s no peer pressure so she’s not at all inhibited.” As she’s grown older, Annabelle has become an integral part of the station, and along with her mother, father Lang, brother Lance and sister-in-law Anna, runs 5500 Droughtmaster cross breeding cattle, with 90 to 100 percent of their stock destined for live export.
Her passion for the industry is well known locally and nationally, and with Annabelle recently becoming one of the youngest people in Australia ever to be awarded the prestigious Nuffield Scholarship, it’s likely her reputation will spread much further. One of 16 to get through the rigorous selection process, Annabelle will embark on a Global Focus Program from June this year, before spending six months studying the future of the live-export trade beyond the station perimeters. The chairman of Nuffield Farming Scholars in Western Australia, John Foss, says the selection panel was impressed by Annabelle’s drive and enthusiasm. “Annabelle’s shown great initiative in her short business career, and she’s displayed a maturity and character well above her age,” John says. He says the panel is pleased to see someone – particularly a female – from the Pilbara, represent Western Australia. “Lots of applications have been from the agricultural sector, particularly grain, so we’re excited to get someone from the pastoral industry.”
It’s a sweet accolade for Annabelle, who many saw as too young to achieve such success. But age has never been a consideration for the purebred station girl, who at 19 moved 1500km south to “Badgingarra”, where her family’s East Pilbara Cattle Station Company owns two farms.
“Tamungunyah” and “Richfield” farms exist to fatten up the lean station cattle, and provide an alternative in drought years for up to 3500 head. Annabelle spent three years there on a steep, mainly solitary, learning curve, managing stock while researching pasture growth and input rates. She says leaving Yarrie was a challenge. “It was quite different for me because when you’re working on your own, you’ve got to be very self-motivated,” she says. “I learnt a lot about myself.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #57

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2008