Queensland’s Fitzroy River system is the second largest in Australia and is host to a variety of enterprises, from grazing and farming to mining and tourism, all unified by a give and take attitude towards their bounteous water source.

Story By Suzy Young

The Fitzroy River system is the best in the world,” declares Graeme Acton, head of Acton Super Beef, whose family cattle business is a dominant force in the region and the industry. “With the Isaac and the Connors from the high rainfall areas to the north, then the Nogoa and the Mackenzie from the west and the Don and Dawson from the south, it’s one of the most worthwhile and stable water supplies in the country.” It’s a ringing endorsement from a man who would know, and the sentiment is echoed all over the catchment area in central Queensland.
The Fitzroy River itself is a relatively short stretch of water, but its story is really a sprawling saga of the myriad tiny streams and creeks that flow into the larger rivers. The essential theme of the story is the eternal give and take between the river and the people who live in its catchment. Taking up nearly 150,000 square kilometres of the heartland of central Queensland from Carnarvon Gorge in the west, just west of Mackay in the north, and from the rolling hills of the Banana Shire in the south, the Fitzroy system is the second largest river catchment in Australia; only the Murray-Darling system is bigger.
The Fitzroy has a unique natural cycle of drought and flooding rain. Flooding is not a disaster; it’s a chance to harvest the excess water and give the land a good soaking. So people in the region have learned to give and take – to use the river while also taking care of it.

This story excerpt is from Issue #48

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2006