Meda Station, West Kimberleys, WA – Jamie and Gemma Laurisson

“Plenty of Space”

Meda Station, 45kms from Derby on the West Australian coast holds a special place in our memory.

Our youngest daughter, Jessica, was born in Derby, and for three weeks in 1991, we camped at Meda, Lyle doing saddle repairs, and our sons enjoying new experiences like cooking curried rib bones in a drum on the camp fire, and going to their first rodeo at Fitzroy Crossing. Our association with the Laurissons began during that time and we value their support and friendship.

Jamie Laurisson and his wife, Gemma, love Meda. “Just a beautiful property… the country, the rivers, the fishing, the coastal frontage, and we like having plenty of space.” Jamie describes the country as “pretty well all black soil, open downs country. There’s one little hill; Yarada Hill… not very big… like a pimple on the landscape.”

Jamie and Gemma’s story is an account of a love for, and dedication to a part of the country where they began their working lives. The West Kimberleys is home in every sense of the word.

“Sand Groper” is a term used to describe someone born in WA, and Jamie and Gemma fall into that category. Jamie was raised in Port Hedland and learned to ride on nearby cattle stations, where he developed “a love for the industry”. After five years at boarding school in Perth, he couldn’t wait to “get up here, and get into it”.

He came straight to Fossil Downs Station near Fitzroy Crossing, owned by John and Annette Henwood. Jamie acknowledges that the two years at “Fossil” represented “a good education. I learned a lot from John and Annette… the way they developed Fossil Downs. John made sure you did everything properly… hammered it into you a bit.”

After “Fossil”, Jamie shifted to Leopold Downs where he worked on two separate occasions, with respective Managers, Peter Grey and Robin Finger, and Head Stockmen, Rob Holmes and Darren Castle. ““Holmesey”, a real bush character, gave us a pretty amusing time.” The connection and friendship with Rob Holmes is ongoing; he is currently the grader driver at Meda.

Gemma says she was “a city girl” and spent her childhood on the coast near Perth. “I always rode. I had friends on farms, and I always wanted to be there. I loved the bush… if given a choice I’d have gone to the bush any day, riding horses.” At the time when Jamie was benefiting from a good education at Fossil Downs, Gemma was gaining a teaching qualification in Perth. “There weren’t a lot of teaching jobs around at the time, and I had an opportunity to come to work for the DePledge family at Mandora Station (between Broome and Port Hedland), as a governess/jillaroo. I was there for two years, and absolutely loved it. I never went back South… a fairly common story.” Another good reason to stay presented when Jamie Laurisson arrived. The two met, fell in love, and a future together was begun.

Jamie’s first Head Stockman opportunity came at Ellendale/Blina Stations with Gemma jillerooing and “doing a bit of everything”. They then spent eighteen months at Wallal Downs (next door to Mandora), and during this time, they married.

In 1990, a return to Ellendale/Blina was in store, when Jamie was offered the Manager’s job. This time they took Georgia, their baby daughter, who was two weeks old. For six months they worked for Peter Murray, “another character; a great entertainer”.

The couple frequently refer to the “characters” they’ve met, and during the time at Ellendale, they met Ted, the grader driver / gardener / groundsman / whatever, who liked growing vegetables. Gemma laughs, “they had to be BIG!… didn’t matter what they tasted like.” Dianna, the cook (who incidentally owned a dog named “Dealer” – a cross between a Blue Heeler and the Laurissons’ feisty little male Daschund), was tired of tasteless, enormous tomatoes, so she put in a crop of cherry tomatoes, of which she was considerably proud. Ted was affronted, and responded by ripping them out!

A short time later, Jumbuck Pastoral (the McLauchlan family) bought into Ellendale/Blina and Meda Stations, and Jamie and Gemma stayed on at Ellendale for six more years. Their second baby girl, Alex, was born during this time, and in 1997, the Laurissons transferred to Meda Station.

During the fourteen years at their Meda home, the Laurisson family has extended to include their two boys, Will and Angus, and living at Meda has been a beneficial experience. Gemma remains devoted to teaching and is grateful that Meda is so close to Derby. “I can work in town, the kids can go to school, and participate in sporting activities. They’ve got a broad friend base, mixing with kids from different walks of life… good experiences, and a preparation for boarding school.”

Jamie is a quietly spoken man, but there is no disguising his enthusiasm for some of the traditional ways of working cattle. He is emphatic about “the need to work cattle steadily and quietly; we coacher muster, and everything is better with low stress handling… blocking cattle up, walking them with horses, putting them through the yards and loading onto trucks. We continually block the cattle up; when they’re let out of the yard, even from yard to yard within the yard. Our chopper pilots are in tune with it, which makes a huge difference; no choppers pushing cattle into the yards. When we’re tailing weaners, we put that block on them, teach them to block and once they’ve learned it, they’re right for life.”

Jamie is a cattle man through and through, with a commitment and dedication to the country matched by a passion for good outcomes for the cattle industry. “I love working with Brahman cattle, there’s so much potential for them over here. There were very few when I first started work in this country, and I’ve always pushed for them… they’ve revolutionised the use of a lot of the tall grass country.”

Jamie and Gemma recognise that “you’ve got to have good people to run these places, you can’t do it by yourself,” and they’re keen to promote the staff who, over the years, have contributed with support and expertise. One such person is Don Harris, who Jamie describes as “an ideas man, who has modernised a lot of the watering systems… he’s made that side of it very easy. He’s been fantastic!” The Laurissons believe it’s essential to treat people properly and with respect, and they have an expectation that staff will have an input into what’s happening.

Jamie is very positive when talking about employing and training young people at the Station. “Yeah, I definitely enjoy it. It’s good to see a young person make it. Some go on to be head stockmen and managers. It’s important to get young people into the industry. If you don’t do something, there’ll be no one there.”

A lot of young people want to come to Meda because of the horse work, and along with the emphasis on low stress handling, there’s an opportunity for them to acquire horsemanship skills through regular horse handling schools. “Each season every worker is given the responsibility for four or five horses… a great experience,” and Jamie notes that “they usually become very attached to their horses.”

However, the workers are definitely not attached to the crocodiles and other reptiles native to Meda, and Jamie, and those involved, won’t forget the following encounter in a hurry.

“We had an old Toyota DA 115 truck, which pulled an old gooseneck trailer, and four or five workers would jam into the cab of the old DA, whenever we were shifting horses. One day I was following along behind, going pretty slowly, when all of a sudden all the doors of the truck Slew open, and they all flew out!

The truck kept rolling down the hill, and came to a stop.

I yelled out, “What’s going on?!” and someone yelled back, “We opened the glove box to get a packet of cigarettes, and there’s a King Brown in there!”

We couldn’t find the snake, it had disappeared somewhere.

Then it was, “So,……….. who’s going to drive the truck?!”

It was a case of drawing straws, and a week later, you’d see one bloke driving, and all the rest are in the trailer, right at the back.” I could tell when their confidence returned – more people began to climb back into the cab again.”

With regard to running a cattle station, Jamie is honest. “It’s b….. hard work; in the season its long hours, and you get tired. It’s managing people, that’s the hard thing. Some years it’s easy, other years people clash… it’s frustrating, and you have to work through it.”

Jamie and Gemma have witnessed a lot of changes since they started working in the cattle industry. These include the B-tech program, the introduction of weaning, and a “sad phase” with the decline of indigenous stockmen in the camps. Jamie continues, “there’s been a lot of development work at Meda over the last twenty years. The McLauchlans have put money into it; they’ve developed places all over Australia, and it’s been interesting to be part of it. We’ve gradually opened up new country and put cattle in there. There’s one more paddock to do. We’ve upgraded the cattle, and I’ve learned a lot. If you keep at it, you get there.”

Jamie and Gemma’s story represents the strength of character, the commitment, and the vision required to ensure that a quality of life in the bush is sustained, and flourishes…. for the benefit of generations to come. They, and many others like them, day by day, in Jamie’s words “keep at it, and… get there”.



“It’s good to have a source of quality leather gear. There’s no one on this side (West Kimberleys) who does anything like you do. We know its genuine gear, strong and well built and made by people who understand what we’re doing.”

Jamie Laurisson, Manager Meda Station,
West Kimberleys.