Life has come full circle for Tony and Pam Davis, who are back on the West MacDonnell country outside of Alice Springs where Tony was raised.
Story + Photos Mark Muller
"You’ve got to listen to the country – it’ll tell you what to do.” Driving along steering with one knee, his long, lean frame folded comfortably into the cab of a well-used Hilux, cigarette paper flapping in his mouth as he rubs up a palmful of Log Cabin fine-cut tobacco, Tony Davis is sanguine about his relationship with the land. “This is what I love,” he says. “Getting around country and looking at it; seeing how the cattle are doing and looking at the grass. These days you can look at a screen to check your watering points, but I’d rather be out on country and actually run my eye over everything. The country will tell you a lot if you listen to it – so will your animals."
Tony is rattling across Narwietooma, about 200 kilometres west of Alice Springs on his way to check a few watering points on neighbouring Glen Helen station. He’ll clock up 300–400km a day looking around, checking on things, and there’s a lot to check. Buying the Narwietooma lease in 2015 was like setting the hub onto the spokes of a wheel. With it, Tony and his wife Pam have consolidated their holdings and now, through their company Amburla Nominees, run about 10,000 square kilometres of country extending from the west of Alice Springs, over the top of the West MacDonnell Ranges National Park, to the edge of the Tanami Desert in the north. This combined holding is made up of the leases for Narwietooma, Amburla, Glen Helen, Derwent and Hamilton Downs stations.
“We run it as one place,” Tony says. “But it’s important to remember that no-one owns dirt – you’re just looking after it.” It’s special country for Tony – his grandfather held the Hamilton Downs lease back in the 1930s, and he himself grew up there, and on Amburla. He and Pam raised their daughters Anna and Caroline from the Milton Park homestead (now part of the Amburla lease) before circumstances conspired and they moved out of Central Australia to carve a life for themselves in the Top End, where they bought and developed first Limbunya, and then Moroak stations. “We just feel very privileged to be able to pull it together, and to be looking after it,” Tony says. “One old blackfella told me once that he was like a tree – that he belonged to the country and grew from it. I feel like that here. It’s home.”
This story excerpt is from Issue #121
Outback Magazine: October/November 2018