While we all feel household cost of living increases, can you imagine the cost of feeding a farm full of animals? Owner and operator of Silverton Outback Camels, Petah Devine, is feeling the pinch so she’s calling upon our animal-loving community volunteers to lend a hand at the farm, with a Volunteer Welcome Day on Monday June 26 from 11am to 1pm.
There are 16 camels in total at the farm, with six of them – Harold, Gopal, Yatungka, Char, Delilah, and Alice – providing rides for locals and visitors to the Broken Hill region.
But camels are only a handful of the creatures living on the outskirts of Silverton. There’s a menagerie of dogs, goats, deer, pigs, alpacas, donkeys, and even buffalo, living alongside an array of feathered friends, including ostriches and a feisty but funny emu named Toto.
“We’re so grateful to Coles for providing us with food scraps three days a week,” said Petah. “I drive into town each Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday to pick them up at 9am, so it would be fantastic if I could find someone reliable to do the pick-up each week, or even three people to deliver the scraps one day a week each, that would be so helpful.
“There’s the option of just delivering the scraps, but ideally they’d also put the food in crates provided for the animals – it can be a fun job being the centre of their attention at feeding time – but delivery alone is a huge help if people aren’t overly comfortable with being that close to animals.”
With plans to upgrade the popular tourist attraction, Petah has all the materials, but limited tools and she needs a hand with general maintenance around the property.
“As much as it’s great having backpackers working out here, it would be fantastic to train local staff who’ll bond with the animals and enjoy being out here regularly,” says Petah. “People with handyman skills would also be a bonus.”
Besides fences that need tightening (and an electric fence that needs electricity), and animal shelters needed for buffalo, goats, alpacas and camels, there’s also an undercover area ready to be converted into a visitor centre to provide information brochures and merchandise.
“And if anyone has a registered vehicle sitting around not being used, we’d love to borrow it so my two backpacking staff can easily get to town on their days off since my old truck is a bit tricky to drive,” she said. “I’ve got two cars out here, but both have stopped running and I don’t want to risk purchasing another, so volunteers who know how to fix vehicles are very welcome.”
With a love for animals, Petah, a former police officer for 23 years who left the force with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), understands how challenging it can be to recover from trauma, but believes that her work with animals each day continues to help with the healing process.
“Animals just make you want to get out of bed in the morning because they rely on you. They know when you’re having a bad day and tend to smooch up to you for a cuddle with no judgement – it’s such a rewarding space to work – always reciprocal respect and nurturing around here.”
Former staff have used a variety of classic excuses for not turning up for work at the camel farm.
“I had to let go of the last staff – a couple – who didn’t want to come to work to feed the animals because it was raining, so I need staff and volunteers who understand that animals get hungry in all weather conditions, all year round,” she says.
Silverton Outback Camels is 30kms out of Broken Hill at 1939 Silverton Rd just out of Silverton. For information about farm visits or camel rides, call Petah on 0428 602 664.
To book a camel ride online, visit: silvertonoutbackcamels.com.au/book-a-camel-tour/