15 March, 2015. 14:03
ERROL PARKER | Editor-at-large | Contact
A WALGETT FARMER has decided to return his property to the land’s traditional owners, the Kamilaroi people.
In a historical first, Roland Gilbert of “Indooroopilly Downs” Carinda, says he plans to walk off the farm at the end of this year in a walk-in-walk-out agreement.
Mr Gilbert revealed to The Advocate this afternoon that he thinks it’s time to go.
“Last year, I had a few paddocks of clover and short summer grasses that were coming away after the last bit of rain we had,”
“Locusts ate that in a day,”
“Anywhere where it’s pasture improved, probably 1500 acres, basically went in an afternoon,”
“Why should I even bother? I’m 67 now and I can’t put up with this anymore.”
Roland’s story is a similar one to many primary producers around the country.
Over 60% of NSW is in drought – with farmers receiving little assistance from anyone.
“The drought’s going into its third year in a row, which is unprecedented since records began in 1876, and we have farmers across the shire on their knees,” he said
“People are almost too embarrassed to ask anymore if it has rained.”
With the NSW election just around the corner, some farmers are surprised that the politicians haven’t dusted off their Akubras and come out for a look.
“We used to have a good bunch of pollies out here,” Gilbert said.
“A good crop of ‘Nashos’ and an independent here or there – those were the days,”
“Ralph Hunt from the old Gwydir electorate used to come up at Easter time for a bit of a look about,”
“He’d bring a carton for lunch, have one or two and leave the rest for you – I miss old Ralph,”
Mr Hunt was Member for Gwydir for almost exactly 20 years.
The image in the mind of the average voter of financially destitute farmers — rather than asset-rich, multi-million-dollar business owners — has meant agriculture assistance programs are a favourite of political parties seeking votes at election times.
Not this time, it seems.
Roland said the reality of “giving away” the property has yet to dawn on him as his family has owned the dust bowl since 1879.
“It’s nigh on impossible to turn a profit anymore,” said the 67-year-old.
“Let alone support a family,”
“So I thought I’d give it back to the Indigenous people – because it’s got no use for me now.”
The landmark decision for a property owner to essentially “give away” his property to the traditional owners could be a growing trend, according to Cecil Rennie, CEO of the Southern Land Council of Australia.
Mr Rennie says one use for properties such as Mr Gilbert’s could be for farming education and training of Aboriginal youth.
“It’s very nice for Roland to consider the traditional owners before some agent bloke in town,” said Mr Rennie.
“Having a property like this one could help change lives of the young Aboriginal Peoples,”
“Just as long as that Mick Mundine don’t come up and try to build units on it like he doing to The Block.”