Drought in the Australian interior
16th December, 2008
As the worst drought in 100 years makes its effects felt in the southern hemisphere, Dan Box asks whether the Australian interior is becoming a terra nullius – a genuine no-man’s-land
The stockmen stalk the cattleyard through clouds of dust and the slanted rays of winter sun, driving the herd before them. A bull has become separated from the rest and flails desperately against the rusted metal fence. One man, Randall Crozier, has his back turned to the animal, unconcerned.
‘Watch your back, mate. Watch your back, mate!’ another shouts.
Crozier doesn’t turn. He walks on, pokerfaced. The bull rears, crashes down into the red dirt and hurtles past, the black steamengine body brushing his shoulder. Crozier turns and grins. He has gambled, and won.
It is 2pm on a Monday at Anna Creek in South Australia, the world’s largest cattle station – at 24,000 square kilometres, it is bigger than Israel. These hungry-looking cattle are among the very last remaining on the property. Within days they will be sold. Drought, now in its seventh year, has slowly bleached the land, forcing the station to empty itself of cattle in order to save them. The land is dotted with the carcasses of those that didn’t make it, whose dried skin holds the shape of full bodies, though the guts and bones have long been hollowed out by dingoes.
The station’s human population...
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