Shar­ing the land they love

Gates are opened up on sta­tion

The Northern Star - Northern New South Wales Rural Weekly - - News - AN­DREA DAVY An­drea.davy@ru­ral­weekly.com.au

AF­TER a long day aerial mus­ter­ing on Kil­cow­era Sta­tion, Toni Sher­win downs her pi­lot wings and takes up the role of tourism host.

In the early 2000s Toni and her hus­band Greg swung open the gates of their iso­lated cat­tle prop­erty to pay­ing campers and guests.

The sta­tion is about 90km south of Thar­go­min­dah in western Queens­land, and their visi­tors are as var­ied as their prop­erty is large (48,562ha or 120,000 acres), rang­ing from rally car teams and four-wheel-drive en­thu­si­asts to home gar­den­ers and green thumbs.

It’s ob­vi­ous Kil­cow­era Sta­tion is close to Toni’s heart. It’s where she has made her liv­ing, raised her two chil­dren and learnt to fly.

She has been there for al­most 40 years, and to this day she still looks for­ward to the wet sea­son, when the prop­erty comes to life with swamps, a great big la­goon and an ar­ray of wildlife.

The out­back gra­zier ex­plained to the Ru­ral Weekly why shar­ing her home with tourists is worth the ef­fort.

COM­ING TO KIL­COW­ERA

Greg Sher­win has ded­i­cated his life to work­ing on the land.

When Toni first met him, he was the young fel­low run­ning cat­tle on the prop­erty her par­ents were man­ag­ing.

Hit­ting it off straight away, they soon mar­ried and moved on to Kil­cow­era, which had just been bought by the Sher­win fam­ily’s busi­ness.

For the first 10 years, the cou­ple lived in the sta­tion’s shear­ers quar­ters, which was a great big fi­bro and pine build­ing that had open ends ei­ther side.

“It had a lit­tle flat at­tached to it and it was quite com­fort­able,” Toni said.

With two daugh­ters, Katherine and An­gela, later join­ing the fam­ily the cou­ple built their own home.

In the be­gin­ning, Kil­cow­era ran sheep and a here­ford herd.

“When the big drought started to bite pretty hard we sold all of our sheep. That was around 2002 and 2003,” she said.

“Af­ter that, of course, we had to sell off cat­tle too so our num­bers went right down.”

Their re­stocker herds came from the Clon­curry re­gion and were a mix of brah­man, charo­lais and drought­mas­ter cross cat­tle.

The cou­ple still run a here­ford herd that are bred with here­ford bulls, and now put drought­mas­ter bulls over their mixed-bred herd.

OPEN­ING THE GATES

In early 2001, a friend vis­it­ing Kil­cow­era re­marked how pic­turesque the prop­erty was.

This friend also hap­pened to be the tourism of­fi­cer for the Bul­loo Shire Coun­cil, and en­cour­aged them to start a tourism ven­ture.

“He just said we had a fan­tas­tic place and that it was a shame that more peo­ple didn’t get the chance to see it,” Toni said.

“We didn’t do it to cre­ate a rev­enue stream. What we were do­ing was giv­ing peo­ple the op­por­tu­nity to stay on a place like this.

“This al­lows them to find

out what hap­pens, how we run things and how we run our coun­try – this lets them see what hap­pens in the bush.”

Their gates are open from April to Oc­to­ber.

For the most part, Toni and Greg do all the prop­erty work them­selves, as well as man­ag­ing the neigh­bour­ing prop­erty.

Toni joked that all you had to do was read be­tween the lines on their web­site to work out how much time and ef­fort was in­volved in their tourism busi­ness.

“We show each guests to their camp site or to their rooms and we have a chat with them,” she said.

“We talk through the in­for­ma­tion fold­ers and show them our maps.”

Meet­ing and talk­ing to peo­ple who have an in­ter­est in the bush has its ben­e­fits.

“We have made some nice friends and we have made some re­ally great friends,” she said.

“There are peo­ple who will come here and look af­ter the place for us if we want to go away.

“And next year we are go­ing on the Can­ning Stock Route with two other cou­ples who we met with through our tourism busi­ness.”

MUS­TER­ING TIME

Cat­tle are mus­tered twice a year on Kil­cow­era Sta­tion. This is the “lucky time” for guests.

“We will put on our Face­book when we are mus­ter­ing be­cause peo­ple want to see it,” Toni said.

“They don’t get to do any­thing, but they can see what goes on.”

Toni and Greg hire two stock­men, Jim Fort and Mitchell Gimm, and use mo­tor­bikes, dogs and a plane to muster.

About 200,000 acres of mulga-range­land coun­try has to be mus­tered, which in­cludes the neigh­bour­ing prop­erty.

Toni be­came a pi­lot in 1989, and said their plane had be­come a vi­tal tool in man­ag­ing their land­hold­ings.

“In the past, when we wanted to do our mus­ter­ing, we would have to book a pi­lot well in ad­vance,” she said.

“And some­times if they had an of­fer of a bet­ter job they would go some­where else. It just be­came ex­pe­di­ent for us to learn our­selves and get an aero­plane.”

While much of the in­dus­try now uses he­li­copters, Toni said they pre­ferred their plane be­cause it was less noisy and al­lowed their cat­tle to be mus­tered in a smooth and quiet man­ner.

Jim and Mitchell have been com­ing to lend a hand on Kil­cow­era for years. Toni de­scribed them as “ab­so­lutely won­der­ful fel­lows” who em­braced their tourism ven­ture.

“They are two big mus­ter­ing types of fel­lows – you know they ride their bikes around all day, then all of a sud­den they will be help­ing out by do­ing wait­ress du­ties at night when we have a car rally, or they take up be­ing the tour guide,” she said.

PATCH OF PAR­ADISE

Toni takes great pride in their prop­erty, and it gives her im­mense joy that guests ap­pre­ci­ate it.

“We ask guests to fill in a lit­tle sur­vey when they leave and the com­ment we re­ceive most of­ten is ‘thank you so much for al­low­ing us to stay on your beau­ti­ful, beau­ti­ful prop­erty’,” she said.

“When we have had rain and there is wa­ter about we have swamps, and a lovely great big la­goon.

“The camp­sites are quite se­cluded. Re­ally they don’t know there is any­one else around them, they can sit back and think they have the place to them­selves.”

Over the years they have re­fined their prod­uct, and now have signs scat­tered about, high­light­ing the dif­fer­ent species of plant life. Guests can also do a 60km drive right around the prop­erty.

“This takes them to a salt lake, which is part of the Cur­rawinya Na­tional Park,” Toni said.

She de­scribed their visi­tors as be­ing re­spect­ful and kind – gates were left shut and rub­bish was col­lected af­ter their stay.

“I think that’s be­cause we are a long way from any­where,” she said. “To come here you have to make a huge ef­fort, so they fully un­der­stand where they are com­ing to.”

When we had rain and there is wa­ter about we have swamps, and a lovely great big la­goon. — Toni Sher­win

IN­NO­VA­TORS: Toni and Greg Sher­win from Kil­cow­era Sta­tion, an iso­lated cat­tle prop­erty that is also a tourism ven­ture.

PHO­TOS: CON­TRIB­UTED

Kil­cow­era Sta­tion’s la­goon af­ter some rain. This is one of the places where visi­tors can camp. Car­denyabba La­goon is part of Car­denyabba Creek, which can even­tu­ally run into the Bul­loo River and then into the Bul­loo River over­flow in NSW in very wet times.

Cat­tle at the Kil­cow­era Sta­tion sign.

A beau­ti­ful camp site at Kil­cow­era Sta­tion.

Toni and Greg’s daugh­ter An­gela White­hall and her hus­band Glenn lend­ing a hand.

Jim Fort and Mitchell Gimm from Bol­lon dur­ing mus­ter­ing time. Greg Sher­win is on the right.

Kil­cow­era Sta­tion’s run­way.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.