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Pre-War Katherine - a battler's point of view

Peanut farmer, Katherine, n.d. c.1940sThe arable land around Katherine offered many possibilities for agriculture which some newcomers were quick to see. One long-term Katherine resident recalled his first impressions.

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Yes, well, Katherine to me – after seeing green grass and trees and a running river – I thought this was a bit better than some of the country I’d come through WA. So when I got this block of land I settled in here.

As I said, I bought an axe and a mattock – second hand – and the tent from the railway department. That was old equipment had been left behind from the railway construction and they sold it up. I was in business with an axe and a mattock and a tent. I had a hurricane light and one of them camp ovens, you know, the old cast iron camp oven? You could cook anything in them if you knew how to use them: anything from a brownie to roast beef; that’s if you had any roast beef to cook…

I settled in then and I only had fifty pounds. Anyhow, I didn’t have any machinery to start; I cleared with an axe and mattock. I got a loan from the Primary Producers Board – seventy-five pounds eleven shillings I think it was. Twenty-five pounds was for peanut seed and the fifty pounds for wire, fencing wire…

My whole crop came to seventy-seven pounds eleven shillings. Of course I was mortgaged; they’d got the mortgage. And the primary Producers Board took the seventy-five pounds and handed me the two pound eleven…

Well, in a way I can’t altogether blame them because there was so many no-hopers around this bloomin’ country at that time; they’d drifted in from everywhere, and they must have thought: ‘Oh, here’s another one, too; we’ll get it while we can, get the seventy-five quid or he’ll be taking off with it.’ So I can’t blame them.

Anyhow, I battled on and battled on for several years growing peanuts and I got a bit better and better every year…

[Northern Territory Archives Service NTRS 226, TS 647 and NTRS 219, TP 679, Bert Nixon]
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