Near and far with the Outback Travelling Tradie


Tradie is an apt description of 69-year-old Robert Doran who has an NPS 300 Isuzu dual cab, which he has converted to a home and workshop on wheels to travel around Australia in.

Doran is based at Moogerah near Aratula in the beautiful Scenic Rim of Southeast Queensland.

Big Rigs met Doran there on Good Friday. He was at the very busy Aratula Bakery mending EFTPOS machines that had decided to go down on the bakery’s busiest day of the year. 

“It was so busy on Good Friday with so many people here,” he said. 

Doran’s wife Mary owns and operates the bakery and calls on him regularly to carry out maintenance.

Mary has her own name for this crazy traveller – “Russell Coight” who stars in the Australian mockumentary television series that parodies the travel adventure genre. 

“I am a travelling tradie and carry my gear including tools in the Isuzu and have it set up so I can sleep in the back section when I am not towing the van. Despite not having much standing room, it’s a great and versatile space,” Doran said.

Super-friendly Doran is a qualified tradesman and registered builder and has been on the road for 20 years doing renovations, extensions, repairs and maintenance, garages, carports and work on isolated farms.

“I have travelled to some of the most remote places in Australia and worked in every state and territory including Groote Eylandt and Milingimbi Island in the Northern Territory from 2011 to 2019,” he said.

Doran traded his two-wheel drive Isuzu MPR300 six years ago for the current NPS and has not regretted his decision.

“It had restrictions being a two-wheel drive,” he said.

Whilst there was plenty of work for the “Outback Travelling Tradie” in the NT, Doran got the opportunity to complete his training qualification and share his skills with First Nations’ Peoples, apprentices and trainees. As he also held forklift and other high risk license tickets and was able to assess current competency, train and assess competencies within Civil Construction qualifications. 

The trainer and assessor job also required, from time to time, to relocate mobile training rooms, offices, accommodation units and workshops to remote communities. 

To do this he also had to upgrade to a heavy combination vehicle license.

Whilst out there Doran made many friendships with local Aboriginal people, learnt the Aboriginal language of Groot Eylandt (Anindilyakwa) and enjoyed the best fishing and crabbing spots you could imagine, often in crocodile and shark infested waters.

“I would often see wild donkeys, camels and feral pigs near the roads in my travels and some of the most rugged roads you could imagine,” rating a stretch on the Savannah Way between Roper Bar and Hells Gate as the worst. 

“It was a real shocker and rough” he said.

He nominated the Top Springs Roadhouse, Heartbreak Hotel, Daley Waters Pub and Barkley Homestead as places in the NT for truckies not to miss.

Doran said that he loved life on the road and added that 95 per cent of his time along the highways and byways was amazing.

“But the other 5 per cent isn’t so good. I recall arriving in Cooper Pedy after our first trip into the outback minus a caravan door which must have blown off during the long stretch of straight highway from Alice Springs. I also once got the Isuzu bogged at the Snowy Mountains area and didn’t have a control for my winch. So I went into the nearby town of Talbingo and a bloke with a Mitsubishi truck came with me and pulled me out. But I had been bogged deep for a day,” he said.

Another passion Doran has inherited from his forebears is gold prospecting, so with a little more time on his hands these days he carries a metal detector with him in the Isuzu.

“Before I had the detector, I used to pan for gold but it was hard work. This is much easier,” he said. 

Not surprising, Doran wouldn’t nominate the areas he prospects at but did say they included isolated parts of SA, NSW, Victoria, WA, Queensland and the NT.

Not far behind his love of fishing and prospecting whilst on the road is rifle shooting.

“I once finished as 11th in the world in one military rifle discipline, having competed in events around the country and at overseas places like Italy and New Zealand. But I don’t get to do it much these days,” he said.

A sports follower, Doran doesn’t mind a good game of football. He barracks for the Brisbane Broncos in the NRL and the Brisbane Lions in the AFL.

Doran concludes that his adventures have only just begun! So if you see him and the Isuzu in his future travels around Australia, stop and say hello. He is a friendly and interesting man.

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