Huge cattle station on the Gulf of Carpentaria near the Queensland border.
It would be hard to imagine a place in the Northern Territory where the elusive 'spirit of the Territory' is more persuasively captured than Wollogorang Station. This is outback Australia, with all its rough edges showing, at its most authentic.
The sheer details of the station are daunting. Located 266 km from Borroloola (all of which is dirt road and which is impassible in 'the wet') and 656 km from the Stuart Highway, Wollogorang is a vast holding of 2750 sq. miles (they still talk in miles out there) or 1.76 million acres. It has 50 miles (80 km) of frontage onto the Gulf of Carpentaria and lies across the Queensland–Northern Territory border.
It is a working station with some 40 000 cattle (most of which are feral and have to be caught by the hair-raising process of driving through the scrub and lassoing individual animals) which are taken by road train into north Queensland for sale.
The station boasts the longest continuous occupation in the Territory. Unlike most Territory properties it has never been abandoned since it was first settled in 1883. In June 1881 a pastoral lease was taken up at Settlement Camp, near the site of the present homestead, by the Chisholm family who lived at Wollogorang House near Goulburn in New South Wales.
The current owner, Paul Zlotkowski, is a mine of information about the history of the property and is happy to tell tales of the changing ownership and the hard times which have been experienced on the property.
'The Chisholms didn't start stocking it until 1883' he explains, 'and I think it was Andrew Broad, who was also involved with the settlement of the McArthur River station, who put a mob of cattle together in Queensland and walked them up here to Wollogorang.Chisholm held it until about 1895 and his manager was Harry Shadforth. He was a white fellow. He's got a lot of part Aboriginal descendants who are quite well known throughout the Borroloola district. In fact Willie Shadforth, who was born here and who was the grandson of old Harry, eventually acquired Seven Emus next door in about 1950. He acquired it from George Butcher for 100 clean skins to be delivered to the Wollogorang yards.
'In 1895 Harry Shadforth was speared under one of the tamarind trees near the old house on the river bank. Soon after that he wrote to the police administration in South Australia asking if this section could be granted police protection from Queensland. At that time there was a Police Station at Turnoff Lagoon now known as Corinda which was down on the Nicholson River about 20 miles west of Doomadgee. A reply did come back from the Queensland police saying they would keep an eye on things here.
'After that the place was sold to Old Man Anning. He left down south with a wife and a big family of children, a mob of sheep, a mob of cattle, pigs. He was looking for land. He was a whiskery old feller. His 19 year old son, Harry Anning, was managing a property in North Queensland. One day the mail coach came in and there was a letter from his father which read: 'I have purchased Wollogorang Station out on the rim for £3000. I want you to get a horse plant together and take delivery forthwith. There's a big mob of toey bullocks up the Wollogorang Valley in the Twelve Mile area. I want you to get them together and take them into the Burketown Meatworks. Regards, Dad. PS. Be careful son. The blacks are bad.'
'So Harry came and took delivery. That was in 1895. In about 1903 Harry walked the annual draft of bullocks into the Burketown meatworks and when he got there he found that they were unable to pay for the previous year's bullocks. Harry wired his father. 'Have arrived Burketown. Last year's bullocks not paid for. What'll I do?' He wired Harry, 'Take 'em home'. Harry was so disgusted by it all that he just let them loose and let them find their own way back.
'In about 1906 Anning sold the property to a company which was set up in Britain. A Captain Bradshaw seemed to be one of the organisers of it. They took up a large parcel of land on the mouth of the Victoria River. It was funded by shareholders in Britain and they were going to have sheep and cattle and goats. They bought Wollogorang for the cattle. There were vast numbers of cattle here at the time and they walked the cattle from here to Bradshaw's run. Then they sold it to a syndicate which consisted of a number of well known North Queensland families. That syndicate had the property for 40 odd years. It was during that time that the homestead was built. It consisted of 2 rooms upstairs and a storeroom and dining room downstairs. Just bloodwood posts and corrugated iron.
'They had a bit of trouble with blacks here. It was after the kitchen was built, which was about 1926, that they shot one of the blacks who was playing up. Just shot him dead and draped him over the woodheap and left him there for a few days just to let the other ones know what would happen.
'There was a fortnightly mail service operating from Burketown to Wollogorang in the 1920s. It's one of the oldest mail services in Queensland. It was a week out and a week back. They had 40 stockmen in the camp and there was a horse plant of 600 or 700 animals.
'In the mid-1940s Wollogorang was sold to Manny Campbell for £17,500. He had a big family. He'd been a pastoral inspector. He decided to de-stock it and moved over 20 000 cattle off it. He sold £80 000 worth of cattle off it.
'George Butcher bought Wollogorang in about 1950 and I think he paid around about £1000 for it. He had married Manny Campbell's daughter. She stayed on when the Campbell family left. She bought about 500 head of breeders and that was the nucleus of the herd that now runs up the valley here. It still wasn't as big then as it is now. To the south was a property owned by Arthur Wallace and Reg Fickling. They eventually went to gaol for pinching cattle off Wollogorang and they forfeited the lease. That forfeiture meant that the Wollogorang property was extended. It was as a result of that theft that a police station was established at Wollogorang in the early 1960s.
In the early 1960s they sold the Northern Territory lease to an American baptist preacher - Alf Stansbury who paid $200 000 for it. Stansbury had the place for two years and I bought it from him for $350 000.'
Accommodation and Eating
Wollogorang Station offers very basic accommodation (share facilities with the station workers and have the lights go out at 9 pm when the generator is turned off), meals, caravan and camping facilities. Telephone: (08) 8975 9944
Telephone: (08) 8975 9944