The driving force behind the northern beef industry and Australia’s largest privately owned cattle enterprise, Consolidated Pastoral Company, Ken Warriner is stepping back to focus on other business interests.
Story By Kerry Sharp
Ken Warriner won't admit to wagging school as a boy, but he and his good mate Rob Walker did manage to get a bit of time out of class to give the workers a hand down at the saleyards in their Queensland hometown of Gympie. A message would come through that they were needed at the yards and so they’d go down and pen and tail out the cattle for a grand “two bob a day”.
Ken’s fledgling livestock work and close friendships with mates from district dairy families ignited a passion that propelled this enterprising doctor’s son to the pinnacle of Australia’s pastoral sector and, more recently, into corporate boardrooms across the globe.
Ken was 17 and a jackaroo at Northampton Downs near Blackall in the late 1950s when renowned boss drover Henry Bauer and his son Alan came by saying they were heading to the Northern Territory. “So I joined them and went droving,” Ken says. “We walked horses from Blackall to Alroy and cattle from Alroy to “Nappa Merrie”, down on the Cooper near the South Australian border. They’d take 50 or 60 mobs a year down that way from the Territory and Kimberley regions. We were fit young fellers and we had good times out on the droving tracks. We didn’t think of it being a tough life at all.”
Ken progressed from droving tracks into new roles and responsibilities on stations the length and breadth of the country – from Queensland, the Barkly Tableland and South Australia to Western Australia’s Kimberley and the Territory’s Top End.
“I found the transition to station work pretty smooth,” Ken says. “We certainly learnt a lot of handy skills from droving and contract mustering, like how to handle stock horses, big mobs of cattle and people who could be pretty wild in the bush in those days. It set you up well for station jobs and management roles.”
Ken picked up priceless experience and skills by taking jobs with Australia’s most respected cattlemen and by mixing with rough-and-tumble station characters who thrived on hard work and the often frugal outback life. He worked with the legendary Tom Quilty on the Kimberley’s Springvale Station and for the MacLachlan family at South Australia’s Commonwealth Hill. He managed “Kenmore Park” in the state’s far north for five years before becoming general manager of King Ranch Pastoral Company’s Mt House Station and, later, the sprawling Brunette Downs on the Barkly Tableland.
This story excerpt is from Issue #85
Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2012