Don, Stuart and Fairlie McLean outside Dubbo Courthouse with a photo of Julia, taken the year she died.Julia McLean had a natural ability with animals.
Nanjing Night Net

She was a “hardworking, honest and reliable human being”, a “shepherd’s dream”, and her life was just beginning.

But Ms McLean died on November 16, 2007 as a result of respiratory failure-acute lung syndrome, in Walgett when she was working as a rouseabout.

She was 19 years old.

Coroner Hugh Dillon concluded yesterday after an inquest held in Dubbo, that the acute lung syndrome was most likely caused by Goodpasture’s Disease, an auto-immune disease – specifically, pulmonary haemorrhage or bleeding in the lungs.

The cause of the disease could not be determined but possible causes included a lung infection or chemical exposure.

Ms McLean was the youngest of five children. She lived on a farm near Deniliquin with her father, Don, mother, Gail, brothers Stuart, Rob and Miles and sister, Fairlie.

Her death came three months after her brother, Rob, died in a car accident in Western Australia.

“Robbie was the wild one but he was a capable and intelligent boy,” Don McLean said.

“The other four were more similar but they all had their own individual capabilities.

“Stuart is really good with cows, Fairlie is good at anything she tries, Rob was good with cars and machinery, Julia was good with her horses, sheep, dogs and other animals and Miles, because of the events of the last few years, is still waiting to bloom.”

Ratima “Chum” Poka, who was in charge of the shearers at Pampas, a property about 60 kilometres east of Walgett, said not a day had gone by since her death that he hadn’t thought of her.

“I would just like to say … I really came for the McLeans to tell the honest truth, the whole truth and to try and have full closure for the parents, and the children, of their daughter,” he said outside the courthouse yesterday.

Magistrate Dillon said he would not be recommending that any of the Poka family, who Ms McLean was working for, should be prosecuted in relation to her death.

“I was very impressed by the genuine and heartfelt sorrow expressed by Chum Poka,” he said.

Mr McLean said he felt the “deepest sympathy” for the hardworking family, who were obviously very shaken and upset at Ms McLean’s death.

“I’m not an employer as they are, but if I’d have been in their boots, oh my god, what a mess, you know. It should never have happened,” he said.

Over the last five years of her life, Ms McLean was into sheep showing, her father said.

“We became very close because I would drive her around to the shows.

“She could have driven herself over the last couple of years but I didn’t want her to have to do that, so we spent a lot of time together.”

The court learned over the duration of the inquest that Ms McLean was a quiet, friendly and happy girl who loved animals and farm work.

“Those who knew her well loved and admired her … She had an extraordinary talent with animals,” Magistrate Dillon said.

Outside the courthouse yesterday, Mr McLean, who turns 69 this month, said the inquest had given him closure.

“(The findings) were very comprehensive and summed up everything nicely,” he said.

“There were so many unknowns … there were lots of questions but there were no answers.”

Mr McLean headed back to Deniliquin with Fairlie and Stuart and their neighbour yesterday.

“All the doubts are gone (now), you’ve got to go on,” he said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.