Tra­di­tional own­ers to man­age sta­tion

Pilbara News - - News - Tom Zaun­mayr

■ Ngar­luma Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion has ex­panded its pas­toral foot­print in its peo­ple’s tra­di­tional lands by tak­ing on the man­age­ment of Kar­ratha Sta­tion.

The deal is a first for miner Rio Tinto whereby an Abo­rig­i­nal tra­di­tional owner group has as­sumed full day-to-day con­trol of one of its six pas­toral op­er­a­tions in the Pil­bara.

For the Ngar­luma peo­ple, the sub­lease rep­re­sents not just a busi­ness op­por­tu­nity, but a chance to pre­serve the cul­ture and rich con­nec­tion to their land upon which Kar­ratha and Mount Wel­come Sta­tion sit.

Ngar­luma elders Pansy Hicks and Vi­o­let Sam­son are two of many in­dige­nous peo­ple in the Pil­bara who have fond mem­o­ries of Kar­ratha Sta­tion.

“We use to come here all the time when we walked the sheep from Kar­ratha back to Cher­ratta,” Mrs Hicks said.

“One time we went down the river and my spirit got caught.

“Lucky the witch doc­tor worked here on the sta­tion and he let the spirit out and put it back in me.

“It was all good here though; we come back here and go swim­ming in the river.” Mrs Hicks said life on the sta­tion played a big part in the for­ma­tion of the friend­ship be­tween Vi­o­let and her­self.

NAC ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Belinda Churn­side said the pas­toral industry in the Pil­bara would be nowhere near as suc­cess­ful as it was to­day with­out in­dige­nous peo­ple.

“As well as be­ing the tra­di­tional own­ers, Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple were the back­bone of the pas­toral industry from when it started,” she said.

"Their knowl­edge of where the wa­ter was, the best graz­ing and deep un­der­stand­ing of the land set th­ese cur­rent pas­toral sta­tions up for suc­cess. “We are so ex­cited about the op­por­tu­nity this sub­lease is go­ing to of­fer ev­ery­one in both run­ning the pas­toral sta­tion … as well as time spent on our tra­di­tional lands.”

From a busi­ness per­spec­tive, the sub­lease gives NAC a fur­ther 77,155ha on top of its ad­ja­cent 200,000ha Mount Wel­come lease.

Mount Wel­come board di­rec­tor Ricky Smith said the sta­tion had been kept in good con­di­tion by Rio Tinto, which would make for an eas­ier tran­si­tion.

“Rio Tinto and the (He­seltines) left it with good pad­docks, wind­mills al­ready set up and cat­tle on it,” he said.

“All we need is some young peo­ple to come out and work on it now.”

Dave Ruther­ford, who has been man­ag­ing Mount Wel­come Sta­tion with his team of two, will as­sume re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for the day-to-day op­er­a­tion of Kar­ratha Sta­tion as well.

“We will have to look at ex­tra staff down the line if we need it,” he said.

“Sheep stock­ing is cer­tainly go­ing to hap­pen on Mount Wel­come and we will see what hap­pens with Kar­ratha along the way.”

Dis­cus­sions for the sub­lease of Rio Tinto’s Yar­raloola Sta­tion are on­go­ing.

Pic­tures: Tom Zaun­mayr

Ngar­luma Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion sta­tion man­ager Dave Ruther­ford and NAC ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Belinda Churn­side with Rio Tinto iron ore chief ex­ec­u­tive An­drew Hard­ing, cen­tre.

Ngar­luma elders Pansy Hicks and Vi­o­let Sam­son have fond mem­o­ries of grow­ing up on Cher­ratta, Mount Wel­come and Kar­ratha sta­tions.

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