Fred Hunter is the first Indigenous person to be appointed chief ranger of Kakadu National Park. 

Story + Photos David Hancock

Born under a tree by a billabong on Mudginberri station, 250km east of Darwin, Fred Hunter, 50, has worked in Kakadu National Park for 35 years and is the first Indigenous person to be appointed chief ranger.

The son of Fred Hunter Senior, a buffalo shooter and crocodile hunter, and Maudie Kundjalk, the last member of the Kodjkarndji clan and a Traditional Owner of the Mount Brockman area, Fred grew up in the Alligator River region of the Top End. He and his younger sister Jennifer were among the last babies born in the bush of the World Heritage Area.

In the 1970s, before the park was declared, Mudginberri station was home to Aboriginal people and seasonal meat workers who processed wild buffalo at Mudginberri abattoir. There were periods when over 200 people lived at the community. Today, there are 50–60.

“The thing I remember about Mudginberri was hearing the shot of a rifle every time a buffalo was taken to be skinned and boned out,” Fred said. “It was a good place to grow up because you had all the Aboriginal kids and all the white kids there and we grew up together with plenty of things to do. The billabongs were clear [of crocodiles] and there were lots of turtles, geese, buffalo and other wildlife around.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #130

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2020