Drought respite on the agenda at Qld rodeo

This year is the event's 60th, attracting some 600 competitors, including a team from the US.
This year is the event's 60th, attracting some 600 competitors, including a team from the US.

It's all over the news and seen Malcolm Turnbull don an akubra and dirty his boots, but don't mention the 'D' word at Australia's biggest rodeo.

As pastoralists reel from extreme drought, a Queensland town is providing a brief oasis from the suffering for some.

That is, the joy of watching cowboys and cowgirls go head-to-head with steers, bulls and broncos on red dirt.

Each time the chute opens, the crowd cheers and beers are raised. What drought?

"It really does provide a good opportunity for them to get off the land, forget about their woes and get a bit of entertainment," Mount Isa Rodeo arena director Steven Hilton told AAP.

This year is the event's 60th edition, attracting some 600 competitors, including a team from the United States, and the odd European backpacker among the spectators.

While a good time is the name of the game, conversation over the four days will inevitably turn to the issue gripping agricultural Australia.

At which point a sympathetic ear is at the ready.

While the federal government moves to provide financial relief, the rodeo is nourishment for the soul.

"I think it's really good for social fabric," rodeo manger Natalie Flecker said.

"They may be working on the land for a really long time in drought conditions and not get to see other people, their family and friends.

"There's certainly a camaraderie when they're doing it pretty tough."

Attending his 42nd-consecutive Mount Isa Rodeo, Hilton's eyes light up when he describes the lure.

"It's dangerous. It's a big challenge for competitors to do what they do," he said.

"Rodeo is a heritage sport here. They were rodeo-ing in the 1890s."

The Mount Isa Rodeo runs to Sunday.

Australian Associated Press