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The Warby family live on Phillip Creek station on the Barkly Tableland. They are among a hard-working band of pastoralists playing a crucial role in the Northern Territory economy. And they love what they do. NIGEL ADLAM reports.

The Warby family feels lucky to live on the land. Mum Katherine, Dad Sandy and kids Chloe, Tilly and Zander live on Phillip Creek Station on the Barkly Tableland. “We feel very fortunate to do what we do every day,” says Katherine. “It’s not easy some days, but it is a rewarding and fulfilling lifestyle.

“Phillip Creek has been an amazing place for the children to grow up on with their animals, motorbikes and horses. “We have five dogs, a pet donkey, lots of horses and lots of poddy calves.” The pastoralists don’t know if their children will run the station when they retire.

“We don’t have an expectation from them – we just want them to be happy in what they choose to do. We know this lifestyle isn’t for everyone.” Sandy is a fourth-generation pastoralist and grew up on the family property, Wybara, north of Roma in Queensland. His parents, Charlie and Judy-Anne bought 3650 square kilometre Phillip Creek Station in 2006.

When they retired in 2016, Sandy and Katherine added to the family’s portfolio by leasing nearby Muckaty Station from the Northern Land Council to run weaner cattle, which would have normally been sent to the Roma station to grow out. They also lease a block called Karlumpulpa and in 2018 bought a South Australian property, Inverhill. Sandy and Katherine can now comfortably run 5000 breeders and follower cattle.

They have faced tough times over the past few years. The ban on live exports in 2011 forced them to send cattle to Queensland, even though prices were low because of the huge numbers going through the sale yards. “We were lucky to get through it,” says Katherine. Worse was to come – the drought of 2018-2019. “It was tough emotionally, physically and financially,” says Katherine. “We were lucky enough to receive good rain this year.

Hopefully, the amount of money we spent on water infrastructure during the drought has set us up to be better prepared for future droughts.” The coronavirus lockdown hasn’t “heavily impacted” on the family, apart from Chloe having to self-isolate for 14 days after returning to her boarding school in Adelaide – tough for a 12-year-old girl. Tilly, 11, and nine-year-old Zander are at Alice Springs School of the Air. TQ