Host: Yougawalla Station
Written by: Jane Sale – Manager, Yougawalla Pastoral Company.
When you hear the word “rich” do you think of money?
For Doodie (Alan) Lawford and Selena Omeara on Bohemia Downs Station, money is the one thing they are not rich with. This is the same for most pastoralists in the North the hardest thing for us with a pay day once a year when the cattle sales are on, is managing cash flow for the rest.
The richness that can be described in Doodie and Selena’s lives is more of the other meanings the dictionary gives to the adjective, that funnily enough relate to the basics in life. Rich in food, colour, culture, land, natural resources, sounds, fragrance, sense of humour, and fund of stories. Bohemia Downs Station surrounds and the people are rich in all of these things.
Doodie was born and grew up on Christmas Creek Station where his father was head stockman for 25 years. Christmas Creek Station borders Bohemia Downs which he and his family now call home once again. Doodie’s Grandfather, Bert Lawford was manager and part owner of Bohemia Downs Station and was a kartiya (whitefella).
Doodie’s father Eric Lawford was taken away by Fitzroy Police when he was five years old. He was taken to Derby then in a container on a cattle boat with four other children down to Fremantle and then onto the Moore River Settlement near Perth. The Native Administration Act in those days called for half caste children to be taken away from their families and sent to Government institutions such as Moore River.
At 14 years old Eric was allowed to head back North and made his way home to the Christmas Creek and in 1944 started working at Chritmas Creek Station as a Jackaroo where he learnt his stock skills and every job in between. Eric eventually became head stockman at 17 years old. It was here on Christmas Creek that Doodie and his brothers and sisters were born. They grew up there and were schooled via Kimberley School of the Air in the community until Grade Six and then he was sent to Fitzroy Crossing to go to High School. At this time the school had an educational program similar to a TAFE that taught skills such as mechanics and stockwork to the boys and home economics and needle craft to the girls. Doodie did work experience on Stations such as Laurel Downs, Brooking Springs, and Jubilee where the love of stockwork that he’d had from watching his Dad at a young age grew.
In the 70’s Doodie went down to Perth Technical College and lived in Claremont. “I was a city Slicker for 5 years.” But the call of his country, like his father had him back up North and working as a stockman in the North West and right across to the Northern Territory.
In 1992 Doodie’s father, Eric was handed back his station from the Australian Government. Doodie couldn’t wait to roll up his swag and came home to Bohemia Down Station that was run down and overgrown with wattle “they used to call it Wattle Downs. When I got here the station didn’t have any money. You know we had pocket money and we put our chuck in money altogether. I went to the hardware store and said I have enough for 20 axe. First thing we cleared was the whole community area. Dad was living here in that blue house, so we just built around him . . . A lot of history here.”
Doodie was given a three month trial as the Station Manager when he came home and he said that three months felt like 25 years. Well now it has been 25 years for Doodie as manager and like the rest of the Stations over those years Bohemia Downs has had its ups and downs.
To be continued tomorrow.