A dedicated band of volunteers is restoring an abandoned town in remote SA.

Story Kirsty McKenzie  Photo South Australian Tourist Commission

As is so often the case around the camp fire, inspiration burnt bright on the 2008 night when Tom Harding and his tagalong tour pulled up at Farina station in central SA.

Tom had a caravan repair business in Melbourne. Many of the clients whose rigs he converted for 4WD conditions were nervous about travelling solo through the outback, so he started running tours. Farina, a 286sq km sheep and cattle station in the Lake Eyre basin was one of his regular stops. The station homestead is on the edge of the Farina ghost town – once a bustling railway and service hub for the outlying stations, and copper and silver mines.

Tom’s guests were intrigued by the cluster of crumbling stone buildings, so he invited station owners Kevin and Anne Dawes to drop by to tell the Farina story. At the end of the night, someone passed the hat around. “The group left in the morning, and it wasn’t until they reached somewhere with mobile reception that Tom gave us a call,” Anne says. “He said the campers had tipped in $850 to help save the buildings.” 

The Farina Restoration Group was born. At first the Dawes thought it would be a good idea to stabilise a couple of buildings to make the place safer and more interesting for tourists passing by on the way to Lake Eyre or the Birdsville, Oodnadatta and Strzelecki tracks. A small crew turned up that winter to lend a hand. 

Fourteen years down the track, the Farina Restoration Group is a highly organised team of more than 300 volunteers who converge with their caravans and camper trailers from all over Australia and work in coordinated 2-week shifts across June and July.

This story excerpt is from Issue #144

Outback Magazine: August/September 2022