An evolving cattle enterprise in south-western Queensland ensures the Turner family continue a six-generation tradition In the heartland.
With the first crisp whisper of daylight, Emma and Katie Turner climb into the Toyota with their father Scott. There are 900 steers in the yards they’re moving to a new paddock and they’ve taken the opportunity to weigh them while they’re in hand. Cloud cover takes the sharp edge off the January day but they have half the mob still to put through the scales and they’d like to walk them out before the heat grips. They have another mob of cows and calves to get in later in the day for branding and marking early next morning. The girls are home on holidays and soon enough they’ll be gone again; Emma to the academic confines of Sydney University and Katie, who has just left school, to one of the Kimberley stock camps of Consolidated Pastoral Company. While they’re home, Scott and his wife Megan are taking advantage of the extra hands and the girls are revelling in the chance to hone the skills they and their older sister Sophie have learned since moving to “Mt Maria North”.
Twelve years ago Scott, Megan and the girls were living at “Canaway Downs”, their 93,000-hectare property at Quilpie, in southern Queensland. At the time they had no plans to buy more country and certainly none to move further east. However, Scott’s a maternal Douglas descendant and they’d heard on the family grapevine that his uncle and aunt, Rob and June Douglas, were ready to sell out and retire.
Megan remembers being reluctant to take on another property so far away, and says, “We had no intention of buying another place, but Scott spent a lot of time at both Mt Maria West and Mt Maria North when he was young. It’s brigalow country and he recognised its potential immediately.”
The original Mt Maria was bought in 1875 by Scott’s great, great grandfather Robert Douglas and his absentee partners, Alfred Skinner and Samuel Bassett. Pioneer settlers in the district, Robert Douglas and his family lived in a very basic hut on the property and set about building yards and fences to care for the cattle and horses they had brought with them.
The partners invested in several properties in the area in the late 19th century and the fortunes of the partnership and the family vacillated according to the usual challenges of weather or pestilence. The structure of the partnership also changed over the years until, in the early 1900s, Robert Douglas became sole owner. The first of several Douglas family partnerships was then struck and members of the next two generations branched out from Mt Maria and settled other properties in the district.