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A revolution beyond the Black Stump m

BRUNETTE DOWNS HAS ALL MOD CONS NOW

They no longer boil the billy at the travelling stock camps on Brunette Downs, in the Northern Territory. For in this vast 4750-square-mile cattle station the old outback ways are passing and a new life is beginning.

ITS a life of mobile

canteens and ice-cream for tea for the stockmen out mustering on the giant, dusty downs; and

of electric coffee percolators, rotary clothes-hoists, washing machines, and running hot

water for their wives and families back at the home stead.

In fact a revolution is

occurring the other side of the Black Stump, and Bru nette Downs is leading the

way.

Set in the sub-artesian

basin of the Barkly Table land, 226 miles from the nearest town, Tennant Creek, Brunette has always been recognised as one of the best improved properties in the Territory.

Four years ago King Ranch Pastoral Company, of which Robert J. Kleberg, American millionaire and

Texas cattle king, is a direc tor, bought it from the Australian - owned Gulf

Cattle Co. Pty. Ltd.

Already the new owners have spent approximately £500,000 on improvements, including new buildings. Only the original homestead and the corrugated - iron station store have been retained.

Three and a half thou sand miles of new roads

have been graded within the

property. A hundred new airstrips have been made. Fifty-six new artesian water bores have been sunk. And hundreds of drought-resis tant Santa Gertrudis cattle have been introduced.

"The aim in spending this money," explained Mr. Peter Baillieu, the managing director of the company, "is to increase beef production by decreasing^ losses. And already this has been achieved. The year we

,.By-.

CAROL HENTY

\-._!

bought the property 25,000 cattle had perished in the drought. Now, with 96 artesian bores working and

faster communications

within the property, our losses are virtually neg ligible."

Yet, gigantic as this new improvement scheme is,

Brunette Station from the

air looks lonely and tiny? just a cluster of grey roofs

huddled near the bend of Brunette Creek and sur

rounded by a flat grey nothingness.

This country is so feature less, so lacking in focal points that cattlemen develop long sight. It is so lacking in

natural shelter that even

kangaroos prefer not to live

there.

And it is only when your plane lands on the airstrip in

front of the old homestead

and taxis through the gate

into the new settlement that

you begin to comprehend the scale and energy of the place.

The inhabitants?approxi mately 35 whites and 120 aborigines live there ? are

keen to show visitors how

they live in the "compound,"

which is laid out like a small town. New wooden houses for married staff are ranged in a street. The "public buildings" are grouped in the centre.

First stop for the visitor is usually die new blue painted school for aboriginal

children.

Here, in a large, comfojt a b 1 e schoolroom, Mrs. Thelma de Louth, wife of the station bookkeeper, teaches reading, writing, arithmetic, sewing, and gardening to some 24 children, whose parents and uncles and aunts are employed on the station.

School hours are from 7.30

in the morning till 12.30, six days a week. "The school is air-conditioned, but even then it gets too hot for the piccaninnies in the

summer to have school in

the afternoons," explained

Mrs. de Louth.

Proudly she pointed out Continued overleaf

OUTBACK SCHOOLTEACHER Mrs. Thelma de Loulh teaches the three "ft*" to aboriginal children who live on the station. The class room, which is air-conditioned, holds 24 pupils, aged five to 15.

BRUNETTE DOWNS HEADQUARTERS, hub of Australia's third largest cattle property, from the air (picture by Adastra Aerial Sur veys). Married staff's cottages back on to Brunette Creek. Hospital, school, offices, workshops, and men's quarters are in the compound. The V-shaped airstrip converges at upper left; at upoer right is a "turkey* s-nest" dam. In top picture the homestead is in foreground.

THE HOMESTEAD, built for the Gulf Cattle Co. Pty. Ltd., which was owned by the White family of IS.S.W., is the only original large

building left on the property. Manager's family live there.

Life can be comfortable

north of Capricorn

from page 33

that this school for abo Sriiies is the first privately too one in the Northern Territory.

It is subsidised by the fjp\ ment, which supplies toothbrushes, soap, and apri ts and milk for "smoko."

"The children shower and brush their teeth and comb their hair before they come to school," she added, point ing out the two new ablution blocb?one for boys and one for girls?beside the school

house

There's usually a rush to get to school, for the first one there may ring the "bell" ?a gong made from a piece 6f resonant piping ? and comp-iition is keen.

School holidays are taken after the "Wet" in the summer, when the aboriginal families go "walkabout" for a month. But this year there were no holidays. The chil dren didn't want to leave school and their parents had to go walkabout without them.

"You adapt"

"I was* terribly thrilled when I found they had stayed.' said Mrs. de Louth. "It as though someone had given me a bouquet."

Mi de Louth came with her isband to Brunette

us ago from Bowral, near Sydney, where Mr. de Louth was bookkeeping for

the late Sam Hordern.

"At first I thought it would be dreadful right up here, she said. "But you adapt vourself and despite

the harshness of the climate ?in ie summer the tem perate- is often up to 112

degrees for weeks ? you can keep very healthy if you eat the right food and wear the right clothing.

"You adapt yourself to the isolation, too. Although there is no telephone here, there are commercial planes coming in with mail and passengers twice a week, there is the wireless for emergencies, and, for interest and things to do, there's always something happening right here."

Like most of the married members of the staff on the

station, Mrs. de Louth grows nearly all her own vegetables in the back garden of her neat three-bedroomed cottage in the compound.

"We can only grow things in the winter, though," she

BRUNETTE

DOWNS

explained. "In summer time the heat scorches plants as though it were frost and all our perishable vegetables have to come by plane from the south. So we plant seeds

in the autumn instead of the

spring."

Helping her with the gardening is Daisy, a lubra, who is married to one of the aboriginal stock em ployees. And in the house there's Topsy, whom Mrs. de Louth has taught to work the washing-machine and the

electric iron.

Daisy and Topsy live with the other aborigines in cor rugated-iron houses behind the compound. New abo riginal accommodation is planned, but already finished and functioning is their com

STATION COOK Bob Foulsion, above, bakes an av erage 36 loaves a day in his diese! fuel oven. AT RWHT, one of the new cot tages, belonging to a married member of the staff. New homes are being planned for the aboriginal Workmen's families.

munal dining-room in which three meals a day are served. There are plastic flowers on the dining-tables.

These dining facilities are the first of their type on a Territory property.

"Before, there was the usual 'dry rations' scheme,"' explained Mr. Reg Geddes, the manager of Brunette, "whereby aboriginal families are given their food once a

week to cook themselves. But

invariably there's none left by the end of the week. Also, under the tribal system, the old men get most of the food and the children nearly

starve. With the new com

munal dining-room, everyone is fed every day."'

Another "first" in the

Territory is the newly com

pleted hospital. It has two double wards for aborigines, one ward for whites, an air conditioned apartment for the registered sister, Miss Billie Stewart, and a fully equipped clinic.

The new men's quarters and staff quarters ? two large wooden blocks in the centre of the compound with solar water-heating ? are pretty revolutionary, too.' There, the atmosphere is

rather "club."

At the back of the men's

quarters at any time of the day you can find Bob Foulston, who, as station cook, is one of the most im portant men on the property.

Flelped by four lubras, Bob

cooks three substantial meals

and two "smokos" for up to 45 men a day. He also does all the butchering on the property and bakes 36 double loaves of bread a day.

When I met him he was

making the week's sausages

?701b. of them?in a kitchen that was out of this world. His refrigerator, which covers one wall of the kitchen, contained eight and a half carcasses of beef. It was a walk-in, walk-out fridge.

Bob started out in life as a commercial butcher, found he could cook, and has been cooking for stations through out Queensland and the Territory for the past 12 years. "Conditions have never been so good as they are here," he said.

Bob's pride in his kitchen is surpassed only by that of Vince Kelly, who is in charge of the new mobile canteen with Number One stock camp. (There are two canteens, one with each stock camp.)

To find Vince and the

stock camp, we drove some

60 miles from the homestead to stockyards where the men were shoeing their broncos in preparation for three months out in the open, mustering.

There beside the dusty, noisy stockyards was parked the mobile canteen, gleaming silver in the 80-degrec winter sun. Towed by a jeep, it

travels with the men.

Costing approximately £2C00, this canteen was built in Brisbane on the lines of those used on cattle ranches in Texas, and adapted to

local conditions.

It is fly-proof and con tains a six-burner bottled-gas stove, an oven capable of handling 16 loaves of bread in one batch, electric light, hot-water service, a hot and cold shower, a large refrig erator, a bunk for the cook,

and two rubbish-tins.

''It's a beauty," said

Vince.

"I've got the best job on the property," he added. '"While all the boys are out getting dusty riding buck jumpers, I'm here in the cool sipping cups of tea."

Vince, tall laconic Queens lander, used to be a ringer himself until he good naturedly stepped into the job of camp cook, when the

station was short of one.

"Mahes sense"

"No one else wanted to do it," he added. "It was a killer. You would be up all night waiting for your bread

to rise in the wood embers. . It used to take an hour and a half to get the billy boil ing. Finding wood for the fires in this downs country

is a killer."

Now it takes Vince only half an hour to have a two course dinner cooked. His variety of dishes has in creased, too, mainly due to the refrigerator.

"This canteen makes

sense," said Vince seriously. "Before we were killing a

steer twice a week for meat.

Now, with the fridge, we need only kill every second week. At this rate, the canteen should pay for itself in a couple of years."

On the way back from the stock camp, we saw a swirl ing dust cloud on the hori zon. "That must be 'Grader Jack,' " I was told.

Jack Donald?or "Grader Jack" as he is known throughout the north?alone was responsible for grading Brunette's new thousands of miles of road and for mak ing the new airstrips beside

the water bores.

With his enormous yellow grader, a trailer carrying food and water, a caravan and six bantam hens, Grader Jack lives and works out on

NEW MOBILE CANTEEN of No. 1 stock camp travels with stockmen. Here some stop for "smofco" in the shade of the canteen flap. They spend month* at a time out in the open.

"GRADER JACK" DONALD, a well-known identity in the north, with his caravan and trailer, which are his home. He grades the

property's thousands of miles of roads.

NEW QUARTERS for single men are cool and spacious. The building is on high concrete piles for protection from white ants. Raised

outline on roof is a solar water-heater.

the downs for months at a time.

He never goes near civil isation if he can help it? except for a week during June when the Brunette

races are held. "I'm more

contented by myself," he

said. "Out here I can eat

and sleep when I like. I can't sleep in a house at the station any more. There's too much noise."

Fresh eggs

For company he has his chickens, which he keeps in a coop he has built under neath his trailer, and he is immensely proud of the way they lay fresh eggs for his breakfast every day of the week, and the way they don't

run away.

With his chickens, his modern caravan with gas stove and refrigerator, and the wide, wide spaces, Grader Jack seems to have all he wants in life.

"I've been a grader for 15

years now," said Jack, "and it's getting better all the

time. There have been some

rough times on the road. I put in the first road from Alice to Gordon Downs, W.A., across the desert and it was 100 miles between water supplies."

But Grader Jack, with his contentment in his lonely life, is one of a dying breed of Territory men. Younger men want and need their wives, families, and reason able comfort in order to battle the flies, heat, and emptiness.

"As far as we can see," said Mr. Baillieu, "there's nothing on earth to tempt reasonable white men to settle north of the Tropic of Capricorn unless you can give them the comforts and modern facilities that you get in or near the cities down

south.

"And sooner or later those comforts will have to come everywhere in the Terri tory."

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