Brendan Eblen is known across the SA outback as a house painter, a cook, a storyteller and an RFDS fundraiser.

Story Kate Le Gallez  Photos John Kruger

For many people, a trip down the fabled Canning Stock Route is a bucket-list adventure, something you might get a chance to do once if you’re lucky. As an experienced guide and self-taught bushman, Brendan Eblen has travelled the route some 20 times. To him, the magic of the Canning is found not simply in navigating the single-lane track from Halls Creek to Wiluna, through 4 deserts and across 1,800km. Rather, it’s the stories of those who came before, the history and the chance to share fellowship and understanding with others that not only propelled him down that track but which carry him through life.

The son of Lebanese immigrants, Brendan spent his early childhood in Adelaide, where his mother was a seamstress and his father a fitter and turner. When he was 10, they bought an orchard near Paringa in the Riverland and stayed there for 6 years. The family then returned to Adelaide and Brendan briefly went to high school. He didn’t really fit the mould of the private boys’ school and left after completing year 10 to take up a job as a storeman in the paint industry.

In 1973, the paint business sent Brendan to work in Port Augusta. “And that was the best move of my life. I just loved it,” he says. Looking back now, each of the seminal threads of Brendan’s life can be picked up and traced back to his time in Port Augusta, from his family and professional life to his commitment to community and his love of the bush and its many stories. In Port Augusta, he met Patricia (Pat) – an accomplished lawyer who would later become his wife – and he quickly immersed himself in the community. “I found the lifestyle in Port Augusta really suitable. I joined the Apex Club. I liked the fellowship with the blokes and meeting people. People in the town were fantastic and friendly,” he says. “And I went to my very first William Creek Gymkhana in ’74, and that locked me in.”

The gymkhana would become a fixture of his life for the next 30 years. He would go on to serve as chair of the committee and was made a life member in 1983.

This story first ran in Great Australians magazine. The new edition is available now for $15. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #155

Outback Magazine: June/July 2024