A star on British TV, ignored by Tourism NT


Alice Springs’ own Chris “Brolga” Barns of Kangaroo Dundee fame is delighting an overseas TV audience of 15 million.
The first show, having taken Britain by storm, will soon be running in the USA, and the shooting of a six part sequel is about to start.
It’s free publicity for Central Australia upon which promoters, one might have thought, could build a dream campaign.
But it seems the massively funded yet chronically underachieving Tourism NT doesn’t want to know Brolga, a nickname given to him because of his long legs, now his chosen name.
He says CEO Tony Mayell and  Commercial Manager Adam Coward came to see him six weeks ago “but I haven’t heard from them since.”
The Alice News has tried to get answers from Tourism NT for two days – no luck.
Says Brolga: “As I understood it, we agreed that this is massive and Tourism NT should have me as its poster boy.
“I was basically willing to do that. We were not talking abut costs, I was willing to do that because I love Central Australia and I want to promote it.
“The audience for Kangaroo Dundee this year will be about 15 million. It hasn’t gone out yet to America and Germany, France.
“We’ll do more shows now and these will go world-wide.
“I got 8000 emails in the last two months: ‘We are coming to meet you, Brolga, and see The Centre where Kangaroo Dundee was filmed,’ they are saying.”
So the one man promoter of The Alice, whose tourism industry is close to collapse, continues to live in his shed which doesn’t have electricity nor running water.
He is paid by the producers of the show when filming is in progress, but that’s not all year round.
All last year he kept the sanctuary closed for the filming to take place.
“I would have earned more keeping the sanctuary open to visitors.”
Between filming he is cleaning buses and doing night fill at a supermarket, with most of his earnings going to the care of his injured baby ‘roos.
About 1000 donors, mostly from the UK so far, have contributed $50,000 but this is in an account dedicated to a wildlife hospital which he will build on his 90 acre lot near the Alice airport, and he doesn’t touch that money for his own needs.
Brolga says $100,000 will be required. A commitment has been made for a 12×9 metre shed, starting with the roof. The walls will come later.
He won’t have an Xray machine but the hospital will be a sterile area for basic surgery.
At the moment Brolga has to pay for vet services if his charges require them: “Every time I have to sign a form accepting that it may cost me $1000,” he says.
“That’s more than I earn in a week.”
Brolga will make the hospital available to other wildlife carers.
“We need free vet care for wildlife. There is a lot of cruelty to animals in this region.”
See earlier readers’ comments.


  1. I have had numerous comments from friends and relatives in the UK in response to this programm. All were excited and extremely enthusiastic.
    Watched the programm on the ABC1 last Thursday and also was most impressed … looking forward to the “final” of the current series this Thursday with great enthusiasm.
    My only comment to the Tourist Commission and Minister for Tourism on their perceived lack of interest / support in this marvellous tourism entrepreneur (and we don’t have many left in Alice Springs) is: WHY?

  2. We watched the two programmes on UK television and were enchanted and impressed by the work Brolga is doing.
    We hope to visit the sanctuary when we come out to the Alice in November.

  3. I have lived in Sydney for 20 years and I was shocked to see that Brolga was “discovered” by British TV, why not us? Chris is an Angel on Earth, dedicated to save these wonderful creatures.
    We need to share positive stories and Alice Springs will benefit so much by having him as an ambassador. He deserves to be supported not only by his own community but nationally. How about an ongoing grant to help him fulfill his projects?

  4. I watched both episodes and was very impressed. It beggars belief that whoever is involved in Tourism in Alice and indeed the Territory doesn’t jump in with both feet. What a promotion for the Centre this is.
    Has everyone gone to sleep up there?
    Hermann Weber

  5. I think Brolga is a bit too “out there” for our obviously staid Tourism people. Rex touched on this when he said that Brolga didn’t want to join up with the Tourism Association. Brolga said it was too expensive or some such to be a member. And when you join up to these organisations you are expected to abide by a whole lot of rules. I don’t think Brolga fancies someone else’s rules.
    But, the big but is, this is exactly what tourists expect and want to see in Alice. Rex’s establishment attests to that.
    So I hope the Tourism fuddy duddys grow up, open their eyes and recognise tourists wishes … to have an authentic outback experience.
    Different to, but just as real as Rex’s great establishment.

  6. A View from the UK
    My wife and I have visited Alice Springs a few times now, we have friends there, and having travelled around the Red Centre, we were fascinated by the TV documentary and the wonderful work Brolga is doing. We both thought what a great advert it was for the Northern Territory. Can’t wait to visit again.

  7. I’m a lady Yank who lived and worked in Sydney and Cairns over two years. Spent a lot of off time in the rain forest and bushwacking and just wandering for fun. I was most enchanted with roos, but mostly amazed (and appropriately scared) by those big red roos up in Queensland. Now I live in another desert (Arizona, USA). We too have 45 C weather in the summer and it gives me so much more respect for Brolga and what he’s doing in that heat and scrappy land he’s on. I’d love to visit to help. Tourism commissions have a head up their arse to not promote this work he’s doing.

  8. Well said Terri M of Arizona. The tourism commission knows how bad they are and that has been the subject of previous ASNO reports. They operate in the same myopic manner which came from another age and which was in denial of anything indigenous. The road ahead will not be easy and will require respect for all players and exceptional leadership.

  9. I think the quote from the new TCA head says it all … Brolga isn’t a member and they only act in the interests of their members. So TCA isn’t about promoting what’s good or interesting or appealing about Central Australia – it’s about supporting a small group of operators who live in the past and have their own agendas. If tourism is everybody’s business, why is TCA in the business?

  10. Going to visit Australia soon, I wish I could meet this extraordinary Kangaroo Mam! He is such a wonderful person, so dedicated towards these innocent little babies.
    Mr. Brolga! Salutes to you from India.

  11. There are no words which adequately describe a manner of man like Brolga. He truly exemplifies the finest in human nature: compassion and love. Hats off two the two ladies in Alice Springs, Cynthia Lynch and Ann Marie Dogherty as well. What wonderful people. I would be proud to call them friends.
    It’s no good going on about the Tourism Board! THEY don’t read comments like this. What MIGHT make a difference is contacting them directly. Their website is tourismnt.com.au. If they get enough emails from people looking to book a holiday in Alice Springs, to visit Brolga and his roos, THEN they may sit up and take a bit more notice. They need to keep n mind folks on holiday don’t want to see the things they have at home: traffic, tall buildings and shiny new stuff. Visitors to Down Under want something more, something they cannot get where they are. If Tourism NT realises this interest means MONEY, then they’ll be all for it!
    Question for the Alice News: On the rear of Brolga’s trick is a website: kangaroo-rescue.com. It’s not active. Can someone give me some information? Do they have another, or none at all? I’m certain I’m not the only one interested, and, lastly, how is Elisabeth? We saw her in the final moments of the film. Did she make it? Did she get foster brothers and sisters? I’d love to know!
    Please five my best to these wonderful people. I wish I lived in Australia. I’d certainly help out. I’ve done orphaned kittens and horse foals. I’d love to have a go at fostering baby kangaroos. I would be interested in making a donation to their care, however. Would you be so kind as to post some information on that as well? Thank you. Cheers!

  12. I would love to get in touch with Cynthia Lynch, who I think looked after my son Henry when he was a baby, and I visited her at Cape Tribulation Road, near Mossman, many years ago.

  13. The next series of kangaroo Dundee is currently showing on UK television.
    On a recent trip to Alice we were lucky enough to meet and talk to Brolga on a couple of occasions – what a nice, gentle, unaffected fellow he is. Unfortunately the sanctuary was currently closed to visitors, but we hope to make it on our next trip.
    Keep up the good work!


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