VISIONARY: Keith Carrick's invention - the bionic arm - in action being used to trap and catch buffalo.
VISIONARY: Keith Carrick's invention - the bionic arm - in action being used to trap and catch buffalo. Contributed

Somerset visionary's 'bionic arm' earns him an OAM

KEITH James Carrick's vision well ahead of its time has earned him one of Australia's top honours: the Order of Australia Medal.

The Crossdale man was recognised by the Governor- General on Australia Day for his contributions to the livestock industry. Specifically, for an invention which has likely saved the lives of countless workers and improved the welfare of animals mustered around the Northern Territory.

Nowadays, Mr Carrick's invention is called a "bionic arm”, although at the time of its invention in 1977, it was simply a steel car accessory which he'd banged up using scrap metal.

The former Northern Territory buffalo-catcher said after laws were introduced mandating buffalo be delivered alive to the abattoir, workers had a hard time capturing the beasts without causing harm to themselves or the buffalo.

Mr Carrick said they had tested several methods to do this, including deploying sedative darts via helicopter, lassoing buffalo using bamboo poles and soft wire hooks, and knocking down the animals using their cars.

All of these tactics were deemed to be either too expensive or too dangerous to be sustainable.

"They say necessity is the mother of invention, and if you knew how dangerous and difficult it was to catch a buffalo in those days, and how hard it was on the animal and the catcher, you'd see what I mean,” Mr Carrick said.

"A lot of people used to get hurt badly catching.”

With his new invention, Mr Carrick and his colleagues could simply drive up beside the buffalo, rein it in using the extendable steel arm attached to the front of the vehicle and capture it from that position.

His wife Rae said the family was "very proud” to have her husband's pioneering vision formally recognised.


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