Kimberley Aboriginal communities are preparing for a big push into Australia’s multi-billion dollar beef export industry after today acquiring the 401,944 hectare, north-west Myroodah Station and its 17,000 head of cattle in an $11.5 million deal.
It brings the number of cattle stations owned by the Kimberley Agriculture and Pastoral Company (KAPCO) to four, and will make it the biggest Indigenous-owned beef producer in the Kimberley and possibly northern Australia.
Martina Watson, who at 33 is the youngest member of the KAPCO board, said the cattle business would provide jobs and a future for current and future generations of Kimberley Aboriginal people and would go some way to re-dressing the past.
“My Dad and my grandfather, they worked on stations their whole lives,” she said.
“They were born and bred on stations.”
“Our old people worked for rations, three meals a day and clothes. It hurts me a bit.”
“With the change of this business, it’s going to be turned around. Young people are going to have wages.”
“My Dad taught me every day of your life be the best you can and work hard. For them to work in that position, it makes me sad, but this opportunity is going to turn the tables. It’s going to change lives here.”
The lease for Myroodah Station has been held by the Australian government’s Indigenous Land Corporation for more than 20 years, but was today transferred to Walalakoo Aboriginal Corporation (WAC).
WAC represents the Nyikina Mangala people who in 2014 were granted native title over 26,215 square kilometres of land, including that on which the station sits.
In turn, WAC will sublease Myroodah Station to KAPCO, a cooperative of Aboriginal pastoral stations, to manage for 20 years.
WAC will also be KAPCO’s biggest shareholder, having a 49.5 per cent stake in the company, with the remainder of the shares held by Marra Worra Worra Aboriginal Corporation and Bohemia Downs Aboriginal Corporation, Nyginah Pastoral Company and Karajarri Traditional Lands Association.
As part of the deal, KAPCO is paying $11.5 million to buy about 17,000 head of Myroodah’s Brahman and Brahman Shorthorn cross cattle from the Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC). The acquisition has been financed with an $8.5 million loan from the Commonwealth Bank and a $3 million loan from Indigenous Business Australia.
KAPCO chairman Wayne Bergmann said the deal, which followed four years of negotiations with the ILC, was “very significant” and would bring the total head of cattle under KAPCO to about 24,000.
He said most of Myroodah’s cattle were currently sold and shipped to Indonesia and the company would continue to concentrate on the live export market.
It would also focus on upgrading the other three stations in its stable — Mt Anderson, Frazier Downs and Bohemia Downs — and taking them to commercial production.
“This is important for the nation because we are bringing back into commercial production Aboriginal pastoral stations that were once the pride and joy of Aboriginal workers in the pastoral industry,” Mr Bergmann said.
“The multiplier effect of bringing the stations into production and the amount of money that is needed to be spent on infrastructurewill represent a mini economic boom in the region.”
A spokesperson for Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said the Minister supported all efforts to get more Indigenous Australians into jobs and to promote economic development.
He said an application for funding from KAPCO was under consideration.
KAPCO was set up by KRED Enterprises in 2015.
The domestic expenditure and export value of Australian beef and cattle in 2016-17 was $16.85 billion, according to Meat and Livestock Australia.
In 2016, a company backed with Chinese money purchased four Kimberley cattle stations for $100 million.
By Wendy Caccetta