Borroloola is a small town nestled in the banks of the McArthur River just inside the Northern Territory in the Gulf country that runs through to Queensland.

The “‘Loo”, as it is often called, has a very troubled past but a bright future.

Conflict between the local Aboriginal people and interlopers in this “most colourful and lawless part of Australia” started in the early 1870’s.

In the 1880’s government surveyor Walther Cuthbertson said that the town was the “resort of the scum of Northern Australia.”

The large floating population included “criminals on the run from police in Queensland and other colonies, and men who had served time in goal for violent crimes.”

In, Frontier History, his excellent social history of the Gulf Country to 1900, Tony Roberts includes this quote from local Justice of the Peace Thomas Macansh:

This town and district are in a state of terror for want of police protection. All the outlaws from Queensland seem to flock here, knowing there is no law to limit them from committing crimes. Horses are stolen, forgeries are committed , all kinds of robberies, debts refused to be settled, all sorts of acts of violence, even a case of sodomy on a drunken man is reported … “*

Thankfully lawfulness and relationships between settlers and  local Aboriginal clan groups (some of whom were literally decimated in the early days of “settlement”) have improved. No better evidence of that exists for that than the annual Borroloola Amateur Race Club (B.A.R.C) Campdraft, Gymkhana and Rodeo event held at the Borroloola rodeo grounds.

For my sins I’ve managed to miss this event before this year but in this post and those following I’ll present some of the photos I grabbed last weekend at the ‘Loo.

Enjoy – and your thoughts are welcome. I’d particularly welcome any information on individual riders and horses in this event. For mine the campdraft represents the epitome of the relationship between horse, rider and beast.

Successfully cutting a single beast out of the small yard, running it through the open gate and thence around the figure-eight course and through the gate requires a skill-set rarely seen in animal-human relationships. I could watch a campdraft competition all day … and have.

First up is the campdraft – run across all age experience groups (of the horses) – hence the Maiden relates to the previous event history of the horse, not the rider.

Here you go. This first is Raymond Murphy of Kalala Station at Daly Waters.

This is the head stockman from McArthur River station, just west of Borroloola.

Here are the winners of the Junior campdraft, including local Mully Mawson (left) from Spring Creek station, south-east of Borroloola.

And here are the winners of the Maiden campdraft — Raymond Murphy of Kalala Station took the blanket and red-sash.

And away from the action in the campdraft ring, cattle have to be moved in and out of the yards.

And every now and then the cattle break through the rails – here are some stockmen fixing the chute up to the truck in the late evening.

Next – the Junior gymkhana at the 2014 Borroloola Amateur Race Club (B.A.R.C) Campdraft, Gymkhana and Rodeo meeting

* See “Frontier Justice. A History of the Gulf Country to 1900” and also “The Brutal Truth: What Happened in the Gulf Country” in The Monthly, November 2009