Humans of Cairns: Brian Ross

Humans of Cairns

Brian Ross, Step Outside Industries & Cockatours

Man holding baby turtleWhen they said, “write an article for your Humans of Cairns” story, the first thing that came to mind was that I’m ‘barely a human’ and I’m occasionally in Cairns; or at least that’s the way my recent bomb-dive into business has left me feeling!

From ‘humping’ bananas soaked in your own sweat in Tully and repairing oil pipelines with frozen toes in Canada to cuddling crocs in Cape York and teaching Indigenous rangers how to save turtles cuter than your Mum, I’ve learnt one thing..


I’m more of a hands-on kind of guy than an office-bound businessman (or woman). But that elegant, flying-possum dive into business that promised doing what you love and working when you want, turned into more of a pencil drop, literally, straight in the deep end!  I was flat out like a lizard drinking!

My previous jobs and adventures did prepare me well for the gig I was about to take on… outback tour guiding and youth development camps.  And geez do I bloody love that gig!  I say there are 3 seasons to tour guiding; the wet season, the tour season and the paperwork season!

And all the wishing I do won’t make the last one bugger off, because the other two are phenomenal: fishing, camping, epic thunderstorms and more epic adventures!  But when it comes to the legal and accounting documents, I feel a sheep short in the top paddock.  Now, I’m the least likely person you’d imagine would jump into business, so let’s head back to the start.

Uni, ecologist.  Yawn.  Rode a motorbike from South America to Alaska; didn’t die > was an adventure = sick!  Came back down under, worked in Cape York for four years as an ecologist, training awesome Indigenous lads how to manage feral pigs to protect their stunning home country and the marine turtle nests (the pigs were eating all the eggs).

Man crawling over mud croc in backgroundI even managed to crawl out to a croc bogged in mud, use my tape measure to measure him at 4.1 m, and lift him at the rear legs to see if he was alive or needed relocating, all whilst being as bogged as he was, and just about bogging my dacks!

Now that was an exhilarating feeling!  But nothing ever made me feel as good as when I helped someone grow, learn or see something they never had before.  So, by mid-2017 as the turtle project came to a close, I resigned, and started building foundations for Step Outsides Industries.

Step Outside Industries was going to be my way of giving back to the world.  I became an ecologist because I wanted to make a change and help the world in some way.  I wanted to contribute to conservation.  But, I realised I was only one ecologist, and if I could convince others to become ecologists, or even change their daily habits for the better, I’d be doing more than I ever could as one ecologist. 

Man speaking in front of studentsI had been giving free talks about conservation at schools for years, and continued to do so on other topics too, when an opportunity presented itself.  Except this opportunity wasn’t your standard opportunity, and I wish everyday that what happened didn’t have to happen for me to have this opportunity.  

But it would let me grow my dream and integrate Step Outside Industries with another dream and another business.

In late 2017, a top young bloke I knew from my home town, Shane Ronan, tragically passed away.  He was a down-to-earth absolute legend.  The business this young fella started from scratch and built up over three years with his partner was on the market. 

Man and lady with rock wallabyWhen I heard, I immediately raised my hand, and loved the opportunity to keep it in Tully hands, carry on his dream, and combine it with my own. After all, one of his favourite sayings was “face your fears”, something that is perfectly aligned with the Step Outside Industries mindset and our love of “step outside your comfort zone”.  So, from mid-2018 on, the perfectly named ‘Cockatours’ would be run by another loose goose from Tully. The two businesses of Cockatours and Step Outside Industries would come together like bum cheeks at a rodeo.

Our first, two-week, Cape York tour went off like a frog in a sock.  The clients were frothing and we loved it just as much.  After spending a part of my childhood in the Cape, and working there for years, I’d accumulated a whole lot of annoying stories to share with my clients.  And I told them some pretty wild yarns too to see if they were awake or not!  I loved having the ability to impart my knowledge of the environment and conservation on others so they can share it too


I also loved the ability to show my clients, mostly from far south (they were silver foxes, not grey nomads), the true nature of Indigenous Australia and how amazing the people are when they are closely connected to their home country.   

Indigenous man with fire and peopleA welcome to country performed by a close mate of mine from Coen had our group feeling the warm n fuzzies, and me hiding the emotional waterworks. 

He was a ranger I trained for the last four years and it was his first official welcome to country, done with my clients, and I was immensely proud!

So, whilst the mud has hit the fan in my bomb-dive into business, frantically building foundations and preparing for a lot of hard work… it has been well worth it!  No business man, or woman, has ever become successful without putting in the hard yards.  But the hard yakka pays off, and you do get to do what you love.  But more importantly, you get to make your own dream into a reality. 

For anyone that’s a dreamer, have a crack, it’s bloody worth it. 

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