Listening to the locals

Jack Fraser had a chat with us as part of our project, The Gulf Savannah Story, collecting information about changes across the landscape.

Jack’s grandfather came from Scotland with his brother in the late 1800s, but they parted in Cloncurry. Jack’s grandfather came to Croydon and was married there, but moved to the Gilbert River and then Georgetown, carting ore during the gold rush.

Horses were used a lot more in those days, and the native rattlepod weed was a problem as it gave horses the deadly walkabout illness. Rattlepod would flare up some years more than others. A friend of Jack’s father, who had been a doctor in the Second World War, prescribed a sulphur triad tablet to cure horses with the walkabout where no cure was previously known.

In the early days, local Aboriginal people would often make a convenient meal out of newly available cattle. While this caused some conflict with station managers, many of the early settlers were able to maintain good relationships with the locals—eventually hiring them to work the cattle.

To get the best out of anyone, you needed to communicate well, show respect, and be good to people.

“There were some very, very great Aboriginal stockmen in my day,” says Jack.

Aboriginal stockmen were often tasked with putting in fire when conditions were right throughout the year. Maintaining the land in this manner suited both traditional purposes and cattle: it remained easy to traverse, and hunting or mustering was far easier when grazing animals were attracted to the fresh shoots of grass that came in after the burn.

This project is funded by Queensland Government’s Natural Resources Recovery Program.

Read the full chat with Jack in the Gulf Croaker.

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