Traditional owners to manage station
■ 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.
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.