Coast woman wins rural women's award by breeding the best
MAREE Duncombe's herd of beautiful Brahman cattle speak volumes about her work ethic, poise and determination.
The 38-year-old cattlewoman produces some of the most sought-after heifers and steers in Queensland's Sunshine Coast Hinterland, but the achievement has not come easily.
Maree took a leap of faith 10 years ago when she started breeding Brahmans after the unexpected death of her father.
She had idolised her dad, who had built Conondale Station up from scratch. So after his death, Maree decided to follow in his footsteps with cattle, despite the fact she had little experience.
Learning the ropes of breeding and finding her feet at sales was an uphill battle, especially as a single young woman, then 28.
"People used to make comments, now it doesn't bother me," says Maree, who proves her credentials through the form of her Brahmans, which now fetch top dollar.
She persevered with her herd and the 930-hectare station despite even more heartache.
In 2016 Maree lost her mother to a stomach aneurysm, not long after her father's death.
"Now I am very happy with where my life is at. But, it is something I think about every day, that I have lost my parents.
"They were both very determined people … very good role models. I guess it sort of motivates me to get better."
Working largely on her own, she runs about 300 cows on the property near Maleny, while also offering accommodation in a renovated cottage.
She has gone from an underwhelming first sale a decade ago, when she received an average of just $300 a calf, to now regularly taking out champion pen titles at the Gympie livestock sales.
One of her proudest moments this year was when a pen of her heifers was named Overall Champion Pen at Gympie.
"I think that's why I've gone well, because I just love what I do."
She sinks her love for her parents into her herd. "If they made $300 or $1000, it wouldn't matter," Maree says. "I would love them just as much if they were worth nothing."
Maree's resolve to carry on despite great loss, her effort to turn Conondale Station into a legacy for her parents and her confidence as a female role model in the breeding industry make her a worthy winner of the Shine Award for Grace.
The Shine Awards were launched three years ago to put the spotlight on rural women making a real difference in their communities.