Duchess, in north-western Queensland, has a population of three. And they all work at the pub.

Story + Photos Ken Eastwood

When Anthony Mills moved from the Gold Coast to Duchess, in north-western Queensland, at the beginning of this year, he had a huge impact on the hamlet. “I increased the population by 50%,” he says. 

He joined his uncle and aunt, Bill and Rhoda Johnston, at the Duchess Hotel, where the cat Teddy oversees the bar and the four dogs outnumber people. The drone of the telly is only occasionally interrupted by a grey nomad’s van trundling up the road or one of the six trains a day carrying sulphuric acid to mines.

The unassuming pub, which Bill nicknamed ‘The Thirsty Camel’ because of the number of dromedaries that used to hang around, is one of just a couple of buildings on the road – the other is the old post office, where Anthony lives. Bill and Rhoda live in the pub, in a room off the pool room. Out the back is a derelict school house, a pizza oven and some dongas with 25 functional accommodation rooms, 10 with ensuites. The rooms are usually empty, but may be used by geological exploration crews, rail gangs or occasionally mine crews. “We don’t have a menu here – you just eat whatever we’re having,” Rhoda says.

This story excerpt is from Issue #127

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2019