tip off


Les MacFarlane C.M.G. of Moroak: Cattleman, politician and racist?

John Lesley (“Les”) Stuart MacFarlane was born in Sydney in 1919 and educated at the Kings School at Parramatta. Little is known of the intervening years but in 1951 he and his family took up the pastoral leasehold at Moroak Station, recently carved out of its massive neighbour, Elsey Station.

It isn’t known how many cattle, if any, MacFarlane moved onto Moroak when he bought the lease but in April 1952 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that MacFarlane hoped to drive 1,000 head of cattle to Kajabbi in western Queensland along a stock-route unused for 60 years and that followed the track–in reverse order–originally cut by Ludwig Leichhardt 100 years before.

MacFarlane would be accompanied by “five native stockmen” and a 45-strong horse plant. Ten years later–in what would be one of the last of the great overland droving trips, he commissioned a young Joe Groves to move more that 1,000 head of Moroak cattle to the Dajarra railhead in western Queensland.



Abortion reform bill must go further to improve access for Territory women 

This is a guest post by Darwin-based GP Dr Jacqueline Murdoch.

“I’m sorry, it looks like we can’t get you in for another four weeks”. The tears brimming over Sarah’s* eyelashes spill, and she starts to sob. I offer her a tissue from the box perched ready on the desk. “I can’t wait another four weeks for the abortion. I can’t keep any food down, I’m so weak and I just need to get back to work”.

Working in general practice in the Northern Territory, this is a conversation that I have with women all too often. Despite widely available contraception and good uptake, unplanned pregnancies occur, as they do all over the world. Some women choose to abort these pregnancies. They are allowed to do so: abortion in the Northern Territory is legal. But our laws make accessing abortions difficult and women have to endure long waits.

A bill to reform abortion law that will be debated in Territory parliament next week aims to change this.

Unfortunately it doesn’t go far enough.


“From time immemorial.” The Mangarrayi law for water and their struggle for land.

The evidence shows that the practice of damming the river by the natives for their own purposes had been going on for many years; that it was, in fact, an “old fellow, black fellow” custom, or, to put it in legal terms, had been in existence from time immemorial.

This brief excerpt from the decision of Justice Wells of the Northern Territory Supreme Court in the 1946 case of Thomas Allison Holt v Harold Eric Thonemann & Harold Stanage Giles (“the Roper River dams case”) lay unreported and ignored in the official records of the court until recovered by researchers in 2012 during research into Aboriginal knowledge and use of water in the country of the Mangarrayi people of the upper reaches of the Roper River in the NT.


BOB GOSFORD | January 13, 2016 | AUSTRALIAN POLITICS | 9 |

‘Nigger Hunts’ in the never never. The battles for land and water on the Roper River, 1870-1945.

This is the first of a series of articles on the battles for control of land and water along the Northern Territory’s Roper River from the time of first incursion by non-Aboriginal settlers to the current day. This first part examines the period from about 1870 through to just after World War II.

A Nigger Hunt’ was the original title of a long-excised chapter in Jeannie Gunn’s largely fictional 1908 autobiography, We of the Never Never. There Gunn described an expedition that she, her husband Aeneas and the stockmen at Elsey Station undertook in pursuit of local Aboriginals that had been ‘interfering with’ their cattle.

A black fellow kills cattle because he is hungry and must be fed with food, having been trained in a school that for generations has acknowledged catch-who- catch-can among its commandments. And until the long arm of the law interfered, white men killed the black fellow because they were hungry with a hunger that must be fed with gold, having been trained in a school that for generations has acknowledged ‘Thou shalt not kill’ among its commandments.

And yet men speak of the superiority of the white race, and speaking, forget to ask who of us would go hungry if the situation were reversed. But condemn the black fellow as a mild thief (piously quoting now it suits them) from those commandments that men must not steal, in the same breath referring to the white man’s crime when it finds them out, as getting into trouble over some shooting affairs with blacks. Truly, we British-born have reason to brag of our inborn sense of justice.

Elsey Station–a few miles east of the small town of Mataranka 400 kilometres south of Darwin and now much reduced in size than in Gunn’s time, straddles the headwaters of the Roper River. The Roper is not called  “Big River country” for nothing, with a catchment of over 80,000 square kilometres it is the second-largest river catchment in the Territory and runs for 1,000 kilometres from its headwaters to the Gulf of Carpentaria.

BOB GOSFORD | January 13, 2016 | ART | 1 |

David Bowie and all the young Darwin dudes, summer 1972

This is a guest post by Tony Haritos.*

Darwin. December 1972. Population 25,000. Nearest city 3,000 kilometres away. Saturday morning. We’re 17 year olds sitting in a mate’s air-conditioned lounge room. It’s stinking hot and humid outside, with thick Cumulonimbus clouds brooding and grumbling ominously.

In an hour we’ll wander down to Waratah Oval and play a game of footy in the dripping, relentless lunatic heat.

But before we venture out let’s play Ziggy Stardust one more time.

The first time I came across Bowie was at a party near a college in Adelaide where I was boarding. I was 16 and would stay with family friends around the corner.



First look: The Wanarn Painters of Place and Time: Old Age Travels in the Tjukurrpa

A good mate who has lived in the Ngaanyatjarra lands for many years tipped the nod to me about this book from the residents of the aged care centre at Wanarn, near the borders of the Northern Territory and South Australia, and that covers a total area of 250,000 square kilometres.

I’ve ordered a couple of copies (one for me, one for whomever I choose) from the folks at the University of Western Australia Press (UWAP) and look forward to poring over my copy when it arrives in a week or so.

BOB GOSFORD | January 07, 2016 | AUSTRALIAN POLITICS | 4 |

NT juvenile justice: “a blight on the entire Australian legal system”

This is a guest post by John B. Lawrence SC, a Darwin-based barrister and immediate past president of the Northern Territory Bar Association. It was first published in the October 2015 edition of Land Rights News (Northern Edition), a publication of the Northern Land Council, based in Darwin.

You can read earlier posts at The Northern Myth on indigenous and juvenile incarceration in the NT here and here.

On the sentencing and detention of Aboriginal juvenile offenders, the late NT Supreme Court judge, Justice James Muirhead, stated in 1977:

In dealing with Aboriginal children one must not overlook the tremendous social problems they face. They are growing up in an environment of confusion.

They see many of their people beset with the problem of alcohol, they sense conflict and dilemma when they find the strict but community based cultural traditions of their people, their customs and philosophies set in competition with the more tempting short term inducements of our society.

In short the young Aboriginal is a child who requires tremendous care and attention, much thought, much consideration. Seldom is anything solved by putting him in prison. If he becomes an offender he requires much by way of support and perhaps much by way of discipline to set him on the right track.

It is with these considerations in mind that purposeful legislation, welfare and probation facilities, work release schemes, modern juvenile institutions and treatment centres have seen set up in Australia.


BOB GOSFORD | January 05, 2016 | ANIMALS | 2 |

Why Malheur NWR matters and “armed, out of state militia groups” don’t

Audubon Society of Portland Statement on the Occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

The following statement by Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was published by the Audubon Society of Portland, Oregon yesterday.

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt to protect the vast populations of waterbirds that were being decimated by wanton killing by the plume trade.

The 188,000 acre refuge represents some of the most important bird habitat on the Pacific Flyway. It is one of the crown jewels of the National Wildlife Refuge System and belongs to all Americans.



What price for water? Stylo Station sold for $5.5 million.

The Northern Myth can reveal that Bettina “Tina” MacFarlane, Country Liberal Party candidate for the Federal seat of Lingiari at the 2016 general election, has sold Stylo Station–which she jointly owns with husband Lindsay MacFarlane–to TFS Properties, a subsidiary of TFS Corporation, the world’s largest owner and manager of Indian sandalwood plantations.

The Northern Myth has accessed Northern Territory government Lands Titles Office records that show that NT Portions 7018 and 72014 were transferred to TFS Properties on 10 December 2015 for $5.5 million. NT Portion 7018 is 66 square kilometres and 94 hectares in size and NT Portion 72014 is 27 square kilometres and 99 hectares, a total just shy of 9,500 hectares. Between them they form the major part of Stylo Station.

BOB GOSFORD | December 20, 2015 | ANIMALS | |

Strider’s Almanac, Vol. 1, Pt 2: How the growing season began in late 2012

This is a (light) edit of the second instalment of Strider’s notes and observations as published at the Hip Strider website. There are a further six parts that I will re-post here (absent any objections to doing so) in due course.

For me these notes reveal how good an observer of the world around him Strider was. His fine-grained observations of the “nature of nature” serve as a model for us all.

This is the second part of the record contained in my notebook number 200. It covers the period from 11 to 30 October 2012, a period of 20 days.

Part 2: It grow hot and the Sun passes overhead

11 October. There was cloudiness from Noon onwards and I heard thunder at 1340 hrs. It seemed as if there were scattered storms about. At night I saw lightning from a storm over the radio-active hills at Mount Bundey on the Arnhem Highway. There was a very little rain here. Just enough to put a trace of rain in the gauge .

12 October. The night 11-12 October was the warmest night for the season so far. There was a cooling wind at 0100 hours (both here and in Katherine it seems) but by 0651 hrs it was 24.5 degrees C here in the room at Starshine.