Thursday’s Special : Traces of the Past 03

Paula is asking us to look into the past for today’s “Thursday Special”

Farming was an important part of the settlement of Australia. The early pioneers saw a vast and empty land that they believed belonged to no one and was ripe for farming. But the land and climate was vastly different to their European farms and a new type of farming was required. So in the outback large acreage were needed to support livestock and so grew the empires of outback cattle stations, thousands of square kilometres in area, with the nearest neighbour being hundreds of kilometres away. Anna Creek station in South Australia is the world’s largest working cattle station.[3] It is roughly 24,000 square kilometres (5,900,000 acres)

These cattle had to be taken to market, which was also thousands of miles away and in the 1800’s the only way to get there was to walk. So evolved a tough breed of man, the drover.

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This double life-size statue pays tribute to the a drover as he moves from job to job with only his saddle bags, containing all his possessions. It is in Newcastle Waters in the heart of the outback, it has a rich, vibrant history as a gathering place for drovers on their gruelling overland cattle drives. It is at the junction of three major overland stock routes, and was an important source of provisions and a place to rest before drovers continued on their way as they took huge mobs of cattle along the droving trails.

It also had a reliable source of water and many birds pass through on their migrations.

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It grew as a major township with a pub and store.

Now it is a ghost town.

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The basic corrugated iron shacks that a family once called home are now deserted, the few meagre possessions left. Rough hewn wooden shelves draped with gingham to bring a scrap of colour. The large kettle on the wood burner stove. How hot it must’ve been in summer cooking on that stove with the sun beating down relentlessly. In winter the wind would howl and find every gap and crack to bring the bitter cold inside.

 Aborigines had long played a big part in the cattle industry where they were competent stockmen on the cattle stations of the north. In 1950 it was legislated that the Aboriginal workers were now to be paid cash wages. Previously they had worked for their keep and their mob/family had been allowed to live on the station and provided with food. With the advent of railway and roads crossing the outback the cattle were moved by road trains and droving became a dying occupation.

In 1988 the bicentennial of Australia a grand plan was made to recreate the droving years with “The Last Great Cattle Drive”

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On the border of Queensland and the Northern Territory is a small township called Camooweal. It was there that we found the Drover’s Shed. A large corrugated barn that has been dedicated as a museum to the drover and his life style.  Here the droving era of Australia is being preserved for future generations and recognizes the contribution of drovers to the development of the nation’s cattle industry.

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We had the pleasure of meeting the legendary Pic Willetts. Then took a tour around the shed with a retired drover who explained how tough the life was and had many stories of his time with the mobs of cattle.

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A project is also underway to create portraits of the remaining drovers and collect their stories.

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What is more iconic of the past than this sweat stained and battered Akubra hat.

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Categories: Australia, outback, photography, Thursdays special, traces of the past | Tags: , , , , | 34 Comments

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34 thoughts on “Thursday’s Special : Traces of the Past 03

  1. This is like stepping into the past on the continent I never visited and probably never will. I am interested in seeing bits of Australian history and it is mostly owed to the quality of your posts. I love your captures, Pauline and the way you present the history of your place. I appreciate this entry a lot.

    • Thanks for the encouraging comment Paula. Australia is only young in European history but it is a rich and vibrant country and of course the Aboriginals have been here some say 40000 some say 60000. Sadly the pioneers massacred them.

  2. P.S. I don’t know if I can make a suggestion regarding linking within your text – like to cattle station and other two links. When you enclose link you can tick “open as new window” option. That way we will still have your blog in front of us with your link in a new window.

  3. Thank you for sharing this- it is so interesting!

  4. Great history of our outback. Wonderful meeting those old characters of the bush but sadly many are dying out. Great photo of the birds.

  5. A great post PP. What a history lesson!

  6. great read! historically interesting. thanks for sharing 🙂

  7. This is totally fascinating, Pauline. Your photos are so evocative.

  8. Amazing way of life. Really 5,900,000 acres? Still operating? Is all of that acreage arable? I love learning all this and the photos are great for taking us there and making it come alive. Thanks for the free travel and the time machine both! 🙂

    • Such an encouraging comment Eileen. Yes it is still an operating cattle station. But no arable as the land is poor and to dry. Here’s some information about it.

      Despite its size, in 2007 Anna Creek Station was carrying only 1,500 head of cattle due to the drought which started in 2001. In 2008, the station was owned by S. Kidman and Co Ltd, there were eight full-time staff and they were destocking all their cattle.[3] Following floods in 2010, conditions improved and the station has restocked. It had 10,000 head of cattle in May 2011.[4] and is capable of carrying up to 16,500 head of cattle during a good season.[3]
      They now use helicopters and trail bikes to round up the herds.

  9. Looks like an amazing place for bird watching and fascinating history!

  10. A great cameo of the droving days. Your images are superb and really showcase an aspect of our history. We sometimes still see drovers in the long paddock (all those reserves that are under threat, and make good places to camp) if there’s a drought, especially – men on horses with their working dogs, but usually only small herds or flocks.

  11. You took me to a different time and place with your beautiful words and photos. Thank you so much for the escape on a grey rainy day.

  12. What a fascinating story. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Great post Pauline we had a wonderful time in our sardine can, that we called Matilda.
    I do not think I could have done such a trip with anyone else and still remain good friends.

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