Coolibah Station quite a family property

Keeping Up With The Joneses.
Keeping Up With The Joneses.
You could say the Jones family farm is a bit of a spread. Their Coolibah Station runs 80,000 cattle across half a million hectares, which makes the annual muster a major exercise involving horses, trucks and helicopters.

Milton Jones, who bought the property near the Northern Territory's western border about 600km southwest of Darwin in 1988, runs his own commercial helicopter fleet. And the manner in which they're flown gives this Outback reality show the air of an action movie. They go low, fast and somehow manage to avoid each other as well as the trees and cliff-faces.

But the show's focus is on the Jones family - Milton and his second wife, Cristina, their 3-year-old son, Milton jun, plus daughter Alex and eldest son, Beau. The two teens attend boarding school in Brisbane, but are always keen to come home for the holidays to spend a fair bit of time on horseback.

Other than the heat and isolation, the challenges the residents of Coolibah face, include dealing with the 5000 or so crocs that live in the wetlands across the property. You don't want the crocs going after your cattle, or your kids, for that matter.

The Joneses let the relatively harmless freshwater crocs go, and are only really concerned with the big threatening "salties".

Beau, in particular, enjoys croc trapping, while Alex is a born cowgirl. Milton jun, even at 3 years old, is already practising his rodeo moves and learning to drive.

However, it's not all fun and games.

Cattle mustering is a business they rely on to put food on the table for the extended family and the 30 live-in farmhands, and there's plenty of paperwork and accounting to be done. It can be a risky lifestyle, too, and they battle bushfires, droughts and flooding all year.

"During the wet season we are trapped here, it's like an island. The river comes up three months of the year and you're isolated," Milton explains.

The extreme weather makes for very impressive cinematography, as do Coolibah's picturesque surroundings - waterfalls, sunsets, the rolling green paddocks and burnt ochre landscape giving way to a star-filled night - and this large extended family love it.

Compelling viewing, this clan of true blue characters. And it's refreshing to see a reality show based around a family who are intriguing for their skills, and lifestyle, rather than their tantrums, addictions or ridiculous spending habits.

Keeping Up With The Joneses screens on Saturdays at 7pm on TV One.


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