Life on the land at Curtin Springs Station in Central Australia is anything but child’s play with the Severin family’s commitment to looking after the land well and truly paying off.
After pioneers Peter and Dawn Severin bought the station in the 1956, which was followed by nine years of no rain, the family knew it was a matter of ‘diversify or die’.
Peter helped build up local tourist infrastructure, including erecting the chain on top of Uluru, and built Central Australia’s first Wayside Inn at Curtin Springs to supplement the station’s income.
The cattle family knows it is a fine balance when it comes to looking after their land and the livestock at the same time, and is letting the landscape determine new business initiatives on the station.
The next generation - Lyndee and Ash Severin – will be explaining how diversifying into tourism has paid off for the Severin family at the 2016 Territory Natural Resource Management Conference in Darwin this week.
The conference is at the Darwin Convention Centre from Tuesday 22 to Thursday 24 November and brings together people working in natural resource management from across the Northern Territory.
The Severin family run 4000 head of cattle on the one million acre station, just outside of Uluru, where they still operate the historic Curtin Springs Wayside Inn, host tourist walks and now a successful paper making enterprise.
The station runs Murray Greys, which they like for their placid nature, the cows’ ability to ‘mother up’ and feed stray calves, and their stocky build.
“We manage the herd and the land, so that they get the best of the good seasons and then learn to adapt when there is no rain,” Lyndee said. “We would rather run a consistent number of animals, even if it means being understocked in the good seasons, this way the cows benefit and the shrubs, flowers and grass are allowed to go to seed and rejuvenate.”
This balanced philosophy has spilled over into the family’s expanding tourism ventures, with a new walking venture that highlights a spectacular new find on the property – a stand of more than 200 of a threatened species of quondong trees which represents one third of all quondong trees in the NT.
“We are calling it the ‘March of the Quondongs’ – it is important to us because it shows our approach of managing feral animals, maintaining stock levels, and conservative fire management is allowing us to protect the environment,” Lyndee said.
And a chance comment by a visiting scientist about making paper from spinifex plants has created a burgeoning paper making enterprise for the Severin family as they ramp up their tourist offering a few notches.
The Curtin Springs paper is made out of spinifex, oat grass, woollybutt, kangaroo and kerosene grass and plants, flowers, bark clay, sand and even cow poo is added to create different textures and colours.
Extended papermaking workshops allow tourists to cut the grass themselves, make the paper in the old abattoir on site and then using it in a creative way on site.
There are also daily tours for paper making.
Lyndee and Ash’s daughter Amee is now turning the amazing paper products into truly unique jewellery pieces.
“One lady who visited said she had to come because making paper at Curtin Springs was on her bucket list!’ Lyndee said.
“Our income from paper making increased by 379 per cent over the past year and this year we have already exceeded last year’s financial figures. Amee is now turning this raw product into wearable art and other art pieces as well as turning it into beads to make jewellery.”
Lyndee said she was passionate about telling the story of Curtin Springs and encouraging other cattle station owners to diversify.
Other key projects that will be presented at the conference include:
Digital storybook – An insight into the development of a screen based digital version of the Southern Tanami IPA management plan which does not require people to read or understand English.
Culture: Sustaining our Future – Local Aboriginal woman Rayleen Brown talks about how the business Kungkas Can Cook sources bush foods harvested by hand by local Aboriginal women on country in Central Australia.
Control of Invasive Cacti in the Alice Springs region – Andy Vinter from Alice Springs Landcare shares treatment methods for controlling the Cacti and the need for community education on the invasive plant.
TNRM Chief Executive Officer Karen May said the conference was the perfect forum to highlight the work done by thousands of people who work to protect the natural areas, native species and habitats in the NT.
“It is a great opportunity to come together and discuss land management and also how we can improve our practices to suit changing environments,” Ms May said.