Joe’s quest for a better life

HOME STRAIGHT: Iraqi born farmer Joe Janabi has become a regular at Warwick sheep sale but admits the transition from growing dates in his home country to running a city butchery is an ongoing adjustment.
HOME STRAIGHT: Iraqi born farmer Joe Janabi has become a regular at Warwick sheep sale but admits the transition from growing dates in his home country to running a city butchery is an ongoing adjustment. Toni Somes

AN UNSHIFTING belief Australia offered a better life and "long days of work" have been the values Joe Janabi held close to his heart for more than a decade.

It is 14 years since the former Iraqi farmer arrived here alone on a migrant visa.

He'd made the tough decision to leave his wife and four young children in the Middle East while he established himself on the other side of the world.

In those first years, he worked in the Lockyer Valley, leasing country and running sheep before trying his hand growing vegetables.

They were long days in a new country, mastering a new type of farming.

"It is not easy to leave your country," Mr Janabi said.

"But the people in Australia were friendly and the life was good quality: That's why we had to come here - for a better life for my family."

Yet it was seven years before he gained permanent residency and was able to bring out his family.

"They were long years: I just work and work."

And work he did making "many mistakes" as he made the transition from life as an Iraqi date grower to an Australian sheep producer and vegetable grower.

"I have good experience growing dates," Mr Janabi said.

"Back in Iraq if you know how to grow tree palms, you can get 500kg of dates from one tree and one tree can last 200 years.

"I am a farmer but I have no experience for other things like sheep.

"I made many mistakes but today I am still learning."

Not all the setbacks this determined newcomer suffered were at the hands of his own inexperience.

Five years ago he lost 700 head of sheep in wild dog attacks during one year on the farm he leased at Gatton. The following year he lost another 300.

"Dingoes were eating them," Mr Janabi said.

"We just lost money, too much money, so we changed to grow vegetables."

This year he made yet another change to his operation buying a butcher shop in Brisbane.

"It's not always easy to find job here so you have to go for business."

The shop is family run and is what brings him to Warwick saleyards several times each month.

"I bought my first sheep through here many years ago," Mr Janabi said.

"Now I come back and buy for the butcher shop: We sell from 60 to 80 lambs through the shop each week.

"I sell cheap meat but quality meat and more and more people they come to our shop now."

The growing business at Acacia Ridge offers halal-slaughtered lamb, beef, goat and chicken.

"Everything in the shop we made by hand, my friends helped me, we painted it all and now it's the place many people come."

Living in Brisbane also means this enterprising newcomer can also afford for his children to attend university.

These days his three oldest children are completing tertiary studies, while his youngest is finishing high school.

"My son and one daughter are doing business at university and one daughter is doing fashion design, while my youngest daughter is at school."

Like many parents, he is constantly juggling the commitments of family with the demands of business.

"I teach my children you have to work hard, always."

He enjoys the days when work brings him back to the Southern Downs.

He has become an almost familiar figure at the Warwick saleyards where he buys and takes delivery of sheep, cattle and goats and then organises for his stock to be processed at Carey Bros plant at Yangan.

It has been a steep learning curve but he credits the invaluable support of Southern Downs businesses with helping him establish his venture.

"George (McVeigh) from Elders has done many things for me," Mr Janabi explained.

"So has Greg Carey: We only have one car so they buy for me when I can't get here.

"They help me, when I not even know names of the sheep.

"They like many here, who make it easier for people like me, who come to Australia to work hard for better life."

Topics:  rural lifestyle sheep wild dogs

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