Roxby Downs is a small community based in Outback South Australia. To find out more about life in in this town, please watch this video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YJAJp0peEhI
For demographic information please visit this link - http://profile.id.com.au/roxby-downs which is the census information.
History of Roxby Downs
Roxby Downs was originally a cattle station years ago. The site of the town was no more than desolate outback paddocks. A few workers were the first to arrive, some with young families in tow, and they set up a caravan and tent city. Conditions were challenging but the fledgling town grew with a strong sense of community driven by an Australian pioneering spirit.
Infrastructure was completed during 1987/1988 and the town was officially opened on 5 November 1988.
The name Roxby Downs comes from the name of the original pastoral station.
Olympic Dam Mine was named after a livestock watering dam on the Roxby Downs pastoral lease under which the ore body lies. The dam was built during the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956 and is very close to the discovery drill site.
The Olympic Dam Mine and the township of Roxby Downs were officially opened on 5th November 1988. 2013 was the 25th Anniversary.
Pastoralism in the Far North
The Roxby Downs region has a pastoral history dating back to the 19th century, with several pastoral stations established near Roxby Downs to stock cattle and sheep. In the early days of European settlement, the country had not been surveyed and property boundaries were yet to be defined.
In the late 1860’s, country now known as Andamooka was leased and included the area known today as Purple Downs. This was one of the first recorded pastoral leases for this region. The names and boundaries of early pastoral leases have changed over the years.
In 1895, the Pastoral Board of South Australia was established. The Pastoral Board administers pastoral leasehold tenure over the northern part of South Australia. A pastoral lease allows the occupation and use of Crown (government) land for the use of grazing or raising livestock. Pastoral leaseholders were required to follow good land management practices and have more accountability.
There are now seven pastoral leases in the region: Roxby Downs, Parakylia South, Purple Downs, Andamooka, Parakylia, Billa Kalina and Stuarts Creek.
Many pastoral pioneers of this region worked hard to make a living in one of the harshest environments known to man. Many pastoralists came and went, however the Greenfield family have leased multiple pastoral stations in the region since the early 1900’s. They now occupy Billa Kalina pastoral station, located 95 kilometres north-west of Roxby Downs, and have done so for five generations. Billa Kalina is 500,000 hectares and runs stock including Shorthorn breeding cows and White Dorper sheep.
Keith Greenfield has kindly provided information for this sign. Keith was born on the land and recalls the many challenges faced as a pastoralist. Rainfall is highly variable and unpredictable. There is no winter or summer bias, but the big rains usually fall during summer. Keith remembers the big rains of 1973 and 1974 gave rise to an exceptional dry grass fuel load that was lit up by thunderstorms, burning large areas of sand hill country on Roxby Downs, Parakylia and Billa Kalina Stations.
Rain events have also caused huge flooding, including the rains of March 1989 that dumped 12 inches over ten days, filling creeks and swamps to unprecedented levels. The flipside is the dry years and drought times that bring hardship, sometimes for three to four years.
“The rabbit is undoubtedly the greatest ecological disaster in this area. Although rabbits provided a source of food during tough times and an income from rabbit skins, the rabbit also caused severe degradation and ring barked any new perennial growth, digging blind holes at the base of any bush they came to. You could reach in and pull out two or three.”
The Dog Fence
The Dog Fence was established under the Dog Fence Act 1946 and protects sheep grazing districts from wild dogs and dingoes on the southern side of the fence. It stretches 5,400 kilometres across South Australia from the Great Australian Bight, into New South Wales and then east across Queensland to Darling Downs. It is the longest continuous fence in the world.
The Dog Fence is located just north of Roxby Downs and forms the southern boundary of Stuarts Creek and Billa Kalina, which are cattle stations. Parakylia, Roxby Downs, Purple Downs and Andamooka Stations are south of the Dog Fence and run sheep with some cattle. The Dog Fence also runs through Arid Recovery, a not-for-profit conservation reserve 20 kilometres north of Roxby Downs.
Pastoralists of today
Local pastoralists have witnessed many changes over the years. The construction of the Transcontinental Railway reaching Pimba in the early 1900’s and the sealing of the Stuart Highway in the early 1980’s changed the way pastoralists in the region go about their business.
The construction of Woomera and the rocket range in the late 1940’s saw a modern town within close proximity to the region’s pastoral stations. It also meant the establishment of the Woomera Prohibited Area, with some of the pastoral stations falling within this zone.
Advances in technologies have seen the horse replaced with motorbikes, four-wheel drive vehicles, ultralight aviation and drones for mustering and a road train to move stock around the run.
The biggest change for all properties has been the discovery of ore at Olympic Dam and construction of Roxby Downs Township. The establishment of Olympic Dam saw three pastoral stations south of Olympic Dam - Roxby Downs Station, Andamooka Station and Purple Downs Station - leased by Western Mining Corporation, then BHP.
In September 2014, Kokatha’s Native Title for the area was formally recognised and Kokatha were awarded sub-leases over Roxby Downs, Andamooka and Purple Downs pastoral stations as part of an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA).
Kokatha Pastoral Pty Ltd has been developed under the guidance of the Kokatha Pastoral Board and continues its growth and development towards establishing a sustainable pastoral business. Kokatha Pastoral have completed infrastructure improvements on the stations, providing increased living standards for staff, safer working conditions and an increased grazing capacity. In recent years Kokatha Pastoral has started to diversify its income to include education and training facilities, tourism opportunities and clean energy options in addition to a long standing agistment agreement with Saltbush Ag P/L.
“Getting our people back onto Country is a fantastic outcome. Our people have a strong and ongoing connection to the area, so the sub-leases not only provide us with an opportunity for economic empowerment but also get us back onto the lands, which are an important part of our culture.”
- Kokatha Pastoral Board