Phillip Ridge reckons that drought is the biggest gamble for graziers out the Back o’ Bourke. But he’s prepared to take a risk on those semi-arid plains.

Story Therese Hall   Photos Kylie Fisher

Born on a sheep station in the sandhills between Bourke and the Queensland border, Phillip Ridge, 66, is the custodian of Jandra, a 40,000ha sheep, goat and cattle property 20 minutes out of Bourke, along the Louth road. He has a deep love for this corner of the state. “I see a great future in the western pastoral regions,” he says. “The only enemy always looming over your shoulder is drought. But you have to gamble against that, otherwise you’d do nothing.”

It’s hard to imagine the devastation of drought when you’re sitting under the shade of river red gums on the luxuriant lawns that fringe Jandra’s vast traditional homestead overlooking the Darling River. “It can be pretty rosy when it’s wet and green,” Phillip says. “Note to self: it will not always look like this.”

Phillip arrived on Jandra in 1985 as an eager 30-year-old bachelor, answering an invitation from his cousins Jill Robertson and Jacqueline Thompson, whom he fondly refers to as honorary aunts. “I came here as manager and partner on my cousins’ place, with the potential of inheriting it – unless I stuffed it up,” he says with a laugh.

The full version of this story was published in both OUTBACK magazine and the 2021 edition of our special one-shot magazine OUTBACK Stations.

This story excerpt is from Issue #140

Outback Magazine: December/January 2022