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From the rugged Great Australian Bight coastline to where it ends abruptly 5614km later in a paddock near Roma in Queensland, the Dog Fence is the longest human-made structure on Earth – although locals living nearby weren’t aware of this when I mentioned it to them. And why would they be?

As I travelled along its New South Wales section, which is administered by the Border Fence Maintenance Board, I witnessed a montage of outback history where mulga fence posts handcut for the original NSW rabbit fence stood superseded by new steel star pickets. A patchwork of wire told a decades’ long story of the battle to keep dingoes  and wild dogs trapped on one side, so pastoralists could raise sheep and cattle on the other.

The NSW section is maintained by seven Border Fence Maintenance officers who live at outposts along it. Twice a week they patrol their patch checking for damage from emus, kangaroos and other wildlife. They remove weeds so the fence remains visible and accessible. They close gates if reckless tourists or passers-by leave them open. As I drove along I stopped to chat to Kevin Johnston, a maintenance officer responsible for a few hundred kilometres that straddle the SA/NSW border. I asked him about life on the fence. At his outpost of Broughams Gate, he described how his father had worked and died on the fence and how his grandfather had cut some of the original mulga fence posts. “The hardest thing about the work is being on your own – the isolation,” Kevin said. Despite that, I could tell the fence maintenance officers, formerly known as ‘boundary riders’, relish the remote lifestyle the fence demands and the task of protecting farmers’ livelihoods.

Border Downs, a NSW station that borders the Dog Fence, is owned by Mark Lacey, a farmer whose family has been working the land in the area for five generations. There I saw 600 sheep mustered, yarded and crutched by Mike and contract workers. “Raising sheep wouldn’t be possible without the Dog Fence,” he told me. “Without it, we would lose about 80 per cent of our lambs.”

Fence maintenance officer Christina Hayman (above) closes Warri Gate on the QLD/NSW border after finding it open. Christina and her husband, Jamie Hayman, the Border Fence Maintenance Board’s leading hand, live at the nearby Wompah Gate and both maintain the fence.
Mark Lacey (above) and contract workers yard sheep in preparation for crutching on Border Downs station. Mark owns this and the neighbouring station, Pine View, both of which adjoin the fence on the NSW/SA border. Mark runs about 12,000 sheep between both stations, and Pine View has been in his family for five generations.
Dan Meyo (above), manager of the Border Fence Maintenance Board, jumps the fence to repair an area that was damaged by recent flooding near Smithville in NSW.
Kevin Johnston, a Border Fence Maintenance Board officer, at Broughams Gate, NSW. He’s been working for 10 years in his current role and his brother is a maintenance officer for another section of the fence. Their father died of a heart attack while working on the fence, while their grandfather cut wood poles for the original rabbit fence when it was converted to a dog fence. “I rarely see a dog on the NSW side of the fence,” says Kevin, who finds the isolation the hardest thing about his job.
Contract worker Billy Skinner prepares a horse to muster cattle on Onepah station in NSW. Billy works with Bumblebred Contract Mustering to muster cattle on agisted at Onepah, which borders the fence.
Jamie Hayman, the leading hand of the Border Fence Maintenance Board, speaks to a fellow fence worker for their afternoon safety check-in, at Wompah Gate in NSW. Border Fence Maintenance Officers call Jamie each afternoon to advise they are home at their outposts safely. If they fail to call, a search is initiated. Jamie lives with his wife, Christina Hayman, at Wompah Gate and both maintain the fence.
After a day’s work crutching sheep, contract workers visit a dam to drink beer and check for yabbies at Border Downs, NSW.
Contract workers crutch sheep on Border Downs Station in NSW.
Border Maintenance Office at Whitecatch Gate, Larry Johnston, on his Sunday off at Whitecatch in NSW. Larry’s grandfather cut mulga for the original dog fence, then his father worked on the Dog Fence at Warra Warra where he grew up. Larry’s father suffered a heart attack while working and died on the Dog Fence. Larry has been working at the Dog Board for 19 years, having spent the last 10 at Whitecatch. “When people leave their jobs, no one wants to come here, the killer is being isolated”, he said. “You have to look before you leap. If anything happens, I am a long way from help or an airstrip. I’m away from people, computers and bullshit.”
Cain Burns and Emma Kuerschner, owners of Bumblebred Contract Mustering, perform a contract muster of cattle on agistment at Onepah Station. Contractors Billy Skinner and Faren Flick worked on the muster, along with helicopter musterers from Broken Hill.
Contract workers Billy Skinner and Faren Flick prepare to start their work yarding cattle on Onepah Station, a property that borders the Dog Fence.
Christina Hayman, 50 and a Border Fence Maintenance Officer, repairs a hole in the fence near Wompah Gate in NSW.