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October 2001 Archives

October 1, 2001

The Story of Daguragu

THEME: Road to Victoria River District
TOPIC: The Story of Daguragu


Today we rode into Kalkarindji, which is a landmark town for the group and me. It signifies an end to long straight tracks, for a while at least, and also it is a landmark because of the Victoria River flowing through it. The Victoria River means, to me, that we are coming up north and have made some progress. Also, Kalkarindji is near a section of Aboriginal land called Daguragu. Here is the story of Daguragu….

In the 1960’s aboriginal stockmen received low wages and very little benefits from the cattle stations they were working on – compared to the white stockmen. Stations would employ a large workforce of aborigines because it would keep costs to a minimum.

Vincent Langiari, a stockman on the huge Wave Hill station, was concerned with the way Aboriginals were being treated. He applied to the North Australian Workers’ Union (NAWU) to help him. The NAWU got approval from the federal government that Aboriginal wages would be raised. It was 1966, and the raising of wages would not be in effect till 1968. Because of this, Lingiari asked Wave Hill station directly to raise wages. They refused and Lingiari and the aboriginal stockmen walked of the station on strike and camped in nearby Wattie Creek.


The Wattie creek camp gained a lot of local support, from both white and aboriginal people, and was made into a sizeable community with a degree of organisation. The Aboriginal stockmen eventually got their equal pay and would only work at the stations which gave them equal pay and better conditions.

After this, Lingiari felt he could achieve something more important, which was to give aboriginals title to their own land. He travelled far campaigning for land rights, and finally made progress with the Australian government in Canberra. On the 16 August 1975, Lingiari got to see the handing over of 3200 sq km of land, now known as Daguragu. Lingiari was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for Service to the Aboriginal people. He died at Daguragu in 1988.

I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to travel through Daguragu, and know the story behind it.

Suggested activities:
1.In your country, or any other, are there any stories you know of, or can find out about land rights and the native people of the land? Could you write this story down and share it with others?

2.Find out what a workers’ union is, and relate it back to this story. Why did Lingiari have to appeal to the North Australian Workers’ Union?


October 2, 2001

Gregory National Park

THEME: Gregory National Park
TOPIC: history of the park

At nearly one million hectares, Gregory National Park is the second largest in the Northern Territory. It was named in honour of Augustus Gregory, a pioneer, who in 1854 led an eighteen-person expedition, which spent six months exploring the Victoria River district before heading east to Brisbane. Land excised from cattle stations in 1990 created the park and evidence of early European pioneering efforts are still in existence. It is also home to Aboriginal sacred sites, which are reserved for the Wardaman, Ngariman, Ngaliwurri tribes, to name but a few.


At the core of Gregory National Park is the former Bullita Outstation. (Land from nearby Victoria River Downs, Humbert River, Delamere, Auvergne, and Innesvale were also excised to create the national park.) Bullita was an outstation for the Durack family; they were firmly linked with cattle and the opening up of interior Australia in the 1880s. The old homestead still stands and the name of one of the Duracks is carved into a nearby boab tree.

Cattle were taken from Bullita and Humbert River stations along the road that runs through Gregory N.P. today. This road connected to the Auvergne Stock Route farther to the north. Evidence of cattle-working facilities used by these large stations is still visible. The Spring Creek Cattle Yards were typical of yards used during cattle drives when up to 500 head might be moved. The Drovers Rest camp near Bullita was the site of a regular drovers’ camp. Many drovers were needed to move the large herds between stations and cattle markets. At this site, the words ‘Oriental Hotel’ are carved into a huge boab.

Along the Humbert track, which runs between Bullita and Humbert River Station connecting to Victoria River Downs, packhorses were used to carry goods. This track was originally a supply trail for Humbert River Station from Victoria River Downs. Today, its only traffic was seven pushbike riders and one support vehicle. The terrain is extremely rugged and better suited to travel by packhorse! However, it is amazing to experience travel over these roads as it was done by men, horses, and cattle in the glory days of early cattle ranching on the Australian frontier.

Suggested activities: Identify national parks in your region. Why were they created and who was responsible for their creation? Was land voluntarily given up to create the national parks and, if so, who previously ‘owned’ the land taken for the creation of the park? Are national parks important to today’s society and if so, why?


October 4, 2001

Augustus Charles Gregory - Early Explorer

2001 October 4, Thursday. Gunbunbu Waterhole, Humbert Track, Gregory National Park.

THEME: Gregory National Park
TOPIC: Augustus Charles Gregory - explorer

The first European to discover the magnificent country we are now experiencing was Augustus Charles Gregory. Setting off on foot (without a Mitsubishi waiting twenty clicks up) he completed the first trip across northern Australia from west to east, in the mid 1850s. The British government financed his expedition – the biggest inland journey attempted at that time - in the hope of finding productive farming land.

The expedition began at sea, for in 1854 journeys were long and difficult even through country which had been previously traversed. The barque Monarch shipped the party to the Northern Territory’s Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, where they entered the Victoria River in a schooner, Tom Tough. The initials Augustus Gregory carved into a Boab tree at what is now the town of Timber Creek can still be seen there today.


Augustus and his party spent months in each area they came to, methodically examining the land, and finding much potential for grazing land. They were not as foolhardy as other desert explorers, skirting the deserts in favour of useful land. While this opened up a vast amount of reasonably lush landscape, it left the true interior of the country still to be discovered.

History remembers Augustus Gregory as “The Cautious Explorer”. His expedition well organised, and his very name, Gregory, means ‘careful’. Yet, like almost all the early explorers, his party suffered difficulties and privations they could scarcely have imagined. As they came ashore at the mouth of the Victoria, three horses were drowned and one lost in the mangrove swamps. Crocodiles took other horses. Their sheep died in the intense heat and their inflatable boat melted. Their rations were destroyed by the heat, white ants and rats. Soon they were eating bats and slaughtering and jerking the meat from their pack animals.

Despite these adversities, however, and the grim prospect of pioneering such untamed virgin territory, Gregory led a successful six-person expedition across the north of the country via Mataranka and Cape York, then south along the east coast, without loss of life of a single crew member.

Augustus Charles Gregory had covered three thousand kilometres by sea and eight thousand kilometres overland, by the time he reached Moreton Bay, on the Pacific Coast. Both the Boab tree (Adansonia gregorii), and the National Park here, are named in his honour.

Suggested learning activities:
Study an intriguing explorer either from your home country or around the world, and design a poster to honour his memory, and to teach others about his party’s achievements. Find out what lies along the route which he pioneered today. Did he establish cities, or find farmland or minerals? Perhaps a new pass was found through previously impenetrable mountains or across an ocean? Did he map any uncharted areas, or find unique natural landforms? Include any fascinating information you can discover, perhaps including some of the following:
When and where the explorer was born
What special skills he had to help him survive
What account of his travels was made (journals, ship logs, letters)
Who he took with him on the journey, and why (scientists, native guides)
Where the expedition travelled (incorporate a map?)
What they went in search of
How they travelled (by foot, horse, ship)
What natural hazards they had to overcome along the way
The hardships endured and the triumphs achieved


October 9, 2001

Timber Creek - early European exploration

THEME: Timber Creek
TOPIC: early European exploration

The Portuguese sailors first charted the Victoria River area, making the Dieppe map. This map shows most of the Northern Australian coastline; including the Victoria River.

In 1839 Caption John Wickham sailed the H.M.S. Beagle into the river, finding such an amazing and beautiful land. He decided it was worthy of naming it after her most gracious majesty the Queen. Hence the name Victoria River.

“This is indeed a noble river!” burst from several lips… (Lt’ Stokes, aboard H.M.S. Beagle)


A C Gregory, an early day explorer of the region, desperately needed lumber to repair his ship, the Tom Tough. Sailing past the mouth of the Victoria River, he proceeded inland to the area of present day Timber Creek. Trees were lumbered from the area and used for the ship’s repairs. Gregory also set up a base camp in that same location.. From this base camp, Gregory led two trips into the Victoria region. His exploration party consisted of seventeen men, among them a botanist, naturalist, geologist, and an artist. His first expedition discovered and explored the Wickham River junction. The second trip was much more extensive, travelling through the headwaters of the Victoria River and discovering the Stuart River. They followed it into the desert far to the south-west, before safely returning to base camp. This trip was effective as they discovered that the land had a tremendous extent of prime grazing area, which would impact settlement in later years.

‘The rushing tide forms whirlpools several yards across…By which we were whirled round and round like a teetotum, being cast forth from one straight into another’ (Old timer 1913)


The Victoria River was a difficult river to negotiate in ships. They were often left stranded on mud and rocks, surrounded by crocodiles. Not only were whirlpools a challenge, but cyclonic weather conditions were also a major problem for sailors.

Suggested activities: Compare these early day explorers with early exploration in your area. How are these expeditions similar and what are the differences? What would be important topics for exploration? Why would it be important to have people from diverse backgrounds on an expedition? What could each contribute and how would that make the project and information gathered more valid?

Feed your children wheat. Joshua.

October 10, 2001

Cattle Ranching - development of Victoria River cattle stations

THEME: ‘Cattle Ranching’
TOPIC: development of Victoria River cattle stations

“There can be no doubt from authentic reports which have reached me that the Victoria River country contains some of the finest pastoral lands in Australia.” (Government Resident, 1884)

Thanks to the glowing reports written by AC Gregory after his 1850s expedition to explore the Victoria River district, pastoral activity and European settlement of the Northern Territory began in earnest.

The 1880s saw the development of the large cattle stations which are still in use today, i.e. Victoria River Downs, 1884, Wave Hill, 1883. Moolooloo station, which we recently visited, is a part of the Victoria River Downs land holdings.


Nat ‘Bluey’ Buchanan, a great cattleman and drover, was responsible for stocking these early stations with thousands of head of cattle. He led many drives through Queensland into the Northern Territory, including what was the largest cattle drive ever undertaken in Australia: the movement of 20,000 head from Aramac in Queensland to Glenco Station near Adelaide River in the Northern Territory. Buchanan’s herds numbered in the thousands and were often plagued by the country’s roughness in crossing, occasional droughts, and mile after mile of moving cattle from one grassland to another. Many cattle were lost to tick fever and accompanying diseases, but he still managed to arrive with enough cattle to stock the cattle stations. These large land holdings were well established by 1915 and saw little change for the next fifty years.

The cattle stations were originally stocked with traditional English breeds, Hereford, Angus, and Shorthorn. These cattle suffered in the semi-tropical climate as their hair coat was too thick and they were not resistant to ticks, which are abundant in this region. Today, the English breeds have been replaced with the Brahma cattle, originally from India. Their shorter hair coat, plus natural resistance to disease makes them more adaptable to this climate.


The cattle industry became the backbone of the Territory economy and in the post WWII recovery period of the 1950s came a global demand for beef, particularly from Britain. This demand led to today’s infrastructure across the Northern Territory in relation to roads built to transport large numbers of cattle.

During the dry season, cattle were mustered, branded by use of a bronco panel, then sorted for distant markets or to restock the station. Stores were hauled in and work to build and repair the cattle yards was completed. During the wet season, most station workers were laid off. General maintenance to the station itself was completed at this time as roads and paddocks became inundated with water and were often impassable. Station life has changed little since the early days of the cattle industry in the Northern Territory.

Suggested activities: Investigate the livestock industry in your area. When was it established? Discuss how farming or ranching impacts the local economy. What livestock is raised in your area? Why is your local area suited for this type of agriculture?


October 14, 2001

Road Trains - transition from cattle drives to truck drives

THEME: Road Trains
TOPIC: transition from cattle drives to truck drives

After World War II, the global demand for cattle and beef from Australia became strong worldwide, but particularly from Britain. The vast distances between cattle stations and the length of time it took to drive cattle cross country for shipments to worldwide markets proved quite a challenge as well as time consuming.

In the 1930s, the development of a vehicle designed to haul large numbers of cattle began in earnest. This early day mode of transportation was referred to as a ‘road train’ due to their ability to haul several trailers pulled by a large truck resembling a railroad engine and cattle cars. Due to the lack of major railway lines in the Northern Territory, road trains seemed the next best thing.


The next challenge to be dealt with in this fledgling transportation industry was the roads or lack thereof. In the early days of cattle stations, horses had been used to pack in supplies to the remote outstations and people didn’t travel often for leisure. In the Victoria River District, where the cattle industry thrived, acceptable roads for transporting cattle to markets was a necessity. Vesteys, a huge British company that owned more than 100,000 sq. kilometres of stations in the Territory, developed the ‘road train’ for cattle hauling and the Commonwealth government began pouring money into ‘beef roads’. By 1975, $30 million had been spent on over 2500 km of roads. One of these single lane bitumen roads is the Delamere Road, which runs from the Victoria Highway to Wave Hill station (once a Vesteys property).

Today’s road trains continually haul cattle around the Territory. Designed with two decks, (an upper and lower deck) the trailers can haul on the average, approximately twenty head per level, or forty head per trailer depending upon the size of the cattle. Three trailers (the most one truck can haul and equal to nine and one half car lengths!) can transport over 100 head of cattle at a time. Beef transportation has come a long way in seventy years!

Suggested learning activities: Investigate the development of the transportation industry in your area. How is it related to other area industries as far as the transporting of goods and products? Is the agriculture industry in your region dependent upon transportation and, if so, in what respects? Compare and contrast the trucking industry in your area with the road trains in Australia’s Outback regions. (Consider total truck length/tonnage allowed on the restricted roadways)


October 15, 2001

Pine Creek - the history of mining

THEME: Pine Creek area
TOPIC: mining

The small town of Pine Creek, 220 kms south of Darwin, has been our camp for the past 24 hours. It, like so many other places along our route, has a colourful historical past.

In the early 1870s, workers on the Overland Telegraph Line discovered gold in the area. The subsequent gold rush lasted for the next twenty years. A telegraph station was opened in 1874 and, at the same time, a large influx of Chinese workers was brought in by Europeans to do the tough work in the goldfields. By the mid-1880s, the Chinese outnumbered Europeans 15 to one in Pine Creek.


Many of the local Chinese were goldfield labourers; however, a large number became businessmen and merchants. A fire in 1892 destroyed all but one of their businesses. When the gold ran out, the population of Pine Creek dwindled and most of the Chinese returned to their homeland in the 1890s.

The trip to the goldfields was not an easy one. The nearest settlement of Palmerston (Darwin) had no road to Pine Creek and the government was unwilling to spend money on building one. A person travelling horseback could reach the goldfields in a few days time, however a wagon laden with mining supplies could consider a six-week journey to Pine Creek. Finally, the decision was made to build a railroad, and in 1889 the North Australian Railway was completed.

The pastoral industry has been a mainstay of the existence of Pine Creek throughout this time period. Recently, the mining of gold has impacted the town’s economy once again with an open cut mine on the edge of town.

From 1906 through 1915, the government sponsored a diamond-drilling project, sinking the Enterprise shaft. At the end of this time, work ceased due to World War I. The mine was sold in 1933 and not reopened until the 1960s, when it was worked intermittently for the next twenty years. In the 1970s, Jingellic Minerals purchased the leases over the Enterprise. Goldfields Exploration commenced operation of the mine in 1981and for the next fifteen years, the mine was worked on occasion until October 1995 when operations ceased and the open pit mine was filled with water.

The mine was drilled at a depth of 135 metres, its width 250 metres at the widest point. Gold produced in the area between 1985-1995 yielded 764,000 ounces, a dollar value of $393 million from all open pit mines.

Suggested activities: Discover the differences/similarities between open pit mines and shaft mines, comparing and contrasting your findings. Has mining played a role in the development of your area? How might it impact the settlement of a region, i.e. what types of businesses might be opened to accommodate the mines? How could the opening of a mine impact settlement of an area?


October 16, 2001

Pine Creek Region - Votes for Women

THEME: Pine Creek Region
TOPIC: Votes for Women

Radical Change Early in the Territory

This morning, while biking along the old Stuart Highway, we came to Grove Hill, a dilapidated old house with a small tavern and a bunch of old cars in the side yard. On a plaque out in the front there was a timeline of the history of the area from 40,000 years ago when Aborigines first inhabited the area, to the 1970’s when mining had a rebirth. In 1896, it said that Northern Territory women got the right to vote. At first my eyes went right by the fact, but talking with April, I realised that it wasn’t until the 1920’s that women gained the right to vote in the USA!


The early date of such a huge step towards equality surprised me because one would think that out here in the ‘Territory’, women would be downcast and second to the men. Maybe it was because of the roughness of the landscape that enabled these Outback women to become more independent and speak out for their rights. Most likely these women would do anything and everything that needed to be done, alongside their male counterparts. The sparse Outback society must’ve been much more different than the male-oriented city-world at the time. When a job needed to be done, it was - , whether it was a woman or a man that did the job, it didn’t matter. This may be the reason for the early date of suffrage in the Northern Territory.

Suggested Activities:

1. Find out when women gained the right to vote in your country or state and compare it with the Northern Territory’s date. Make a hypothesis as to why it happened at the time it did.

2. Do you think that our society today would be different if women hadn’t been given the right to vote? Why, or why not?


October 17, 2001

Birds - Wildlife Exports

THEME: Birds
TOPIC: Wildlife Exports

2001 October 17, Wednesday.

Paradise parrots, considered to be Australia’s most beautiful bird, were widely admired since the first European sightings in the nineteenth century. But, by the end of the 1920s, they were extinct. Drought and overgrazing by cattle and rabbits helped the major cause, ‘specimen collection’, to entirely wipe them out.

Early colonists were startled by the incredible colour and variety of Australia’s parrots, but felt out of place in their new country. In the 1850s, the Acclimatisation Society introduced blackbirds, thrushes, starlings, mynahs, sparrows and pigeons, among many other bird species, and European-style gardens became the fashion. Parrots were all but eliminated from the cities for more than one hundred years.


People at that time had none of the awareness of the fragility of the balance of the natural world that we have today. As new frontiers were pioneered, new flora and fauna were being discovered, thrilling times for enthusiasts. Today, we grow up with an awareness of animals such as the duck-billed platypus, and have photographs to appreciate if we cannot see them first hand.

The people of nineteenth century Western Europe had no such shock absorber to the excitement of the discovery of new species. The upper classes would pay high prices for taxidermy specimens like the Paradise Parrot, the exquisiteness of which prompted John Gould, the brilliant British naturalist, to write:

“The graceful form of this parakeet, combined with the extreme brilliance of its plumage, renders it one of the most lovely (parrots) yet discovered; and in whatever light we regard it, whether as a beautiful ornament to our cabinets, or a desirable addition to our aviaries, it is still an object of no ordinary interest.”, and: “No-one can see it without desiring to possess so beautiful and graceful a bird.”

Black Market trade of wild animals continues today all over the world, and is still contributing to the decline, and sometimes the complete elimination of floral and faunal species. Illegal bird trafficking in Australia is all too common. However, today, we are much more at home with our native species and many parrots are thriving in towns.

Suggested learning activities: Find an example of a time in history when fashions very different from today’s caused damage to the environment or an aspect of society. Research it, and discuss it with an older person (perhaps a grandparent). How do people treat this issue in modern times?


About October 2001

This page contains all entries posted to Australia Lesson Activities - History in October 2001. They are listed from oldest to newest.

September 2001 is the previous archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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