As a township, it was an essential resting place for many exhausted drovers, stockmen and heads of cattle during these years as they travelled these stock routes, most notably the Murranji Track. Newcastle Waters is also a historically significant site of the overland telegraph line, with the line being completed and physically joined at Frew Pond (initially named Frew Ironstone Pond), just north of Newcastle Waters, connecting Australia with England for the first time in history in 1872.
Having played a significant role in Australia’s history, including the establishment and development of Australia’s beef industry, and that of Australia’s Northern Territory, unfortunately most of the Newcastle Waters historic township buildings, whilst protected by heritage listing, are now in sad and declining disrepair. Despite this, there is so much hope, passion and potential for the future of the Newcastle Waters township and its surrounding areas.
The tourism possibilities of this region seem endless, with the Marlinja Aboriginal community interested in providing cultural experiences, existing road, rail and airstrip infrastructure and the permanent waterholes with substantial birdlife. Not to mention, the heritage preservation potential of the remaining township buildings and the opportunity to share the historical significance and remarkable stories from the area that helped shape Australia.
The NT Government, through TourismNT, acknowledges the historical importance and tourism potential of Newcastle Waters. In 2018 as part of the Barkly Regional Visitor Experience Master Plan, the Newcastle Waters Concept Plan was developed.
The next step is for a ‘Newcastle Waters Historic Township’ site master plan be created.
Yet despite this acknowledgment, and the beneficial economic and social outcomes of these tourism possibilities, the NT Government has not yet committed any further funding.
Enter the ‘Mates of the Murranji’.
Established in late 2020 by well-known Central Australian, Krafty, the ‘Mates of the Murranji’ are a group of people who are committed to supporting the resurrection and promotion of the Newcastle Waters historic township and surrounding area. And their first aim is to push the development of an achievable strategic plan.
Named after the Murranji Track, foundation members include well-known Territorians, Ted Egan AO, Frank and Lorraine Dalton, Pat Carmody and Jimmy Dalton. Ted worked as a teacher at Newcastle Waters in 1965 and has referenced the Murranji Track and Newcastle Waters and some legendary characters in several of his recorded songs.
Lorraine Dalton is the granddaughter of Matt Savage who was respectfully known as the Boss Drover, Frank (married to Lorraine) and his brother Jimmy Dalton have spent much time travelling and working throughout the area, and Pat Carmody is a famed croc-catcher and butcher from Katherine.
Krafty says “The ‘Mates of the Murranji Project’ is about building a solid future by recognising, recording and respecting the past. The histories of the first Australians, the explorers, the development and completion of the overland telegraph line and the establishment of Australia’s cattle industry, all connected at Newcastle Waters.”
The heritage preservation concepts of the remaining historical buildings are supported by the National Trust of Australia, of whom have already revived and maintains one of the existing buildings ‘Jones Store’. “With huge credit and acknowledgement to the National Trust and their hard-working volunteers, the recently-restored ‘Jones Store’ provides substantive and informative interpretive signage and is an excellent example of vision and potential for the other historical buildings in the township.”
The ‘Mates of the Murranji’ has now grown to over 140 members and had its inaugural ‘Muster’ in mid-April. Over 40 mates, hailing from all parts of the Territory, met at the Junction Hotel, Newcastle Waters to discuss the dreams, possibilities, and potential of Newcastle Waters.
Krafty was very excited with the roll-up of so many Mates for the Muster, which also included NT Government/TourismNT representatives, Stuart Ord and Mark Crummy. “This shows promise from the NT Government, and we are now awaiting some positive news about future funding and implementation for Stage 2 of a Strategic Land Use Plan.”
“At the muster, we were also blessed with a presentation of the histories of both the Murranji Track and Newcastle Waters from Ted Egan’, he said. ‘Naturally, Ted’s stories were incredibly entertaining and interspersed and enhanced with songs.”
The future of Newcastle Waters looks promising, and Territory Q will continue to share stories and updates of the Mates of the Murranji.
Save the Date – 2022 Muster the next ‘Mates of the Murranji’ Muster is planned to be held around 22nd August 2022 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the joining of the overland telegraph line at Frew Ponds. There are plans for a commemorative event to be held at the Sir Charles Todd Memorial adjacent to the Stuart Highway and situated between Elliott and Dunmurra – this being the gateway to the Frew Ponds Historic Reserve.
Join Mates of the Murranji If you would like to be kept up to date with the progress of Newcastle Waters, or join the Mates of the Murranji, please email firstname.lastname@example.org