WA communities profit from camels, not here


p2348 camels 1
p2348 Alan Keeling 1Sir –  I am frustrated that the development of a viable camel industry in the Northern Territory is being held back by the Central Land Council (CLC).
With over 80% of the NT rangelands under Land Trust or Indigenous tenure and most of the wild camel herds ranging over these areas, after more than two years of lobbying, phone calls and emails I have made no progress nor received any constructive response from the CLC, to meet with them, to look at their support and  positive involvement in developing a farmed camel industry.
The NT Governments’ recent study into the viability of a Central Australian multi species export standard abattoir,  as an alternative to the helicopter shooting of wild camels, could not be not be justified until a regular and reliable supply of  camels is available.
The report recommended farming, and it may take seven years to build up the numbers in controlled herds to provide processors the confidence to access the lucrative and existing overseas middle eastern markets.
Domestic markets exist for camel meat which is indistinguishable from cattle beef in taste and odour when cooked and with the escalating prices of beef in Australia this market could be developed, but is constrained because there is not a reliable supply of camels.
The NT Government has a vision to provide enterprise and employment opportunities in remote areas where few exist in Central Australia, except for mining and tourism: Wild camels are there and are a resource that could and should be utilized to achieve these goals.
Over the WA border near Docker River at Tjukurla, the Ngyattjatjarra communities have established a very successful camel harvesting and farming operation.
With the assistance from their Ngaanyatjarra Council, in addition to a camel company they have established a successful fuel distribution business, road houses, motel, campgrounds and community stores.
Back in the NT  it is a different story with the reliance predominately on welfare or training for income.
Australian Government funded training organisations have not in the past delivered outcomes to provide employment security, as training it in itself is seen by many in remote communities as a job.
Few employment opportunities exist in these locations, with indigenous peoples’ past affinity with camels and donkeys for transport. They say they want to do work with the camels and not see them shot.
Community people tell me no-one listens to them and the CLC takes over when a prospective business partner approaches them, wanting to do something with camels on their Land Trusts.
In fact many operators are immediately discouraged by the onerous conditions put forward by the land councils, for any prospective joint partnership enterprise.
Contrary to what some CLC staff have said to me after the two NT Government sponsored camel meetings that yes, they do want to support the development of a Central Australian camel industry, I have formed the opinion that they do not. Their interest is more in eradicating camels.
The declaration of Indigenous Protected Areas (IPA) over the areas  where most of the camels are, seems to strengthen my opinion.
The Australian Government funded “Caring for Country” ranger programs could better be expanded to see the natural resource management benefits of fencing of water holes of cultural significance, provide alternative watering points for camels, horses and donkeys well away from outstations and communities and teach the rangers camel handling and mustering skills  by experienced operators.
Camels are a resource and a symbol of Central Australia.
We have the best disease free camels in the world, we should all work toward promoting them rather than continue to see then them as a feral pest.
Alan Keeling (pictured at top)
Director of the Australian Camel Industry Association
Independent candidate for Namatjira
[ED – We have offered the CLC the right of reply.]


  1. I have spent years trying to get some sense out of this ludicrous situation. It started when I thought it obscene to leave 200,000 tones of meat to rot in the desert, while millions starved.
    I went to the major banks wanting to geet them movlved in harvesting and drying the meat under their doctrine of social responsibility. What a joke in bad taste.
    They were to give it to the Red Cross for distribution. I spent several years watching commercial tour operators transporting them and eventually wrote a short report on ways to improve the logistics. The was cast aside.
    I have also seen several huge aggregations of camels gathered for mating, and a well known national journo who was with me at the time photographed it all.
    The Egyptians have used their mating behavior to gather wild camels for thousnds of years but we are supposaed to be further advanced than that and use helicopters in our arrogance.
    There was an inquiry from Taiwan years go to supply 65,000 but had no hope.
    He wanted continuity which requires farming.
    The SA Government has now legislated to enable that. Gazumped again!
    An associate has recently air freighted them to both Taiwan and Malaysia. There have been at least 53 reports writtn so far and one beaurocrat even told me that it was wrong to build and industry out of a problem, while a certain well oiled vocal former minister told me that the cull was to prevent exploitation of Aboriginal people.
    There have been two senate estimate hearings in to the money used in the cull (Sean Edwards and Lee Brianan), both interesting while at least one effort to get NT Government support for an abattoir has come to a quick end.
    Camel milk currently sells interstate for $30 a litre. A number of attempts to start it here have all met with a swift end. We only build houses!

  2. The problem here the walfare is too good, too much sit down money. I see Tanami Downs station is in voluntary liquidation which is run by Aboriginals. Farming camels here will be no diffrent, if we are going to close the gap people have to work.

  3. Aboriginal people will either forever remain on welfare or forever be “trainees” or both while others control their destiny. 30 years involved in Aboriginal affairs, a good number of those working for a Federal government department for quite a number of years on government funded training and employment programs, we believed we were making headway way back in the 1980s and through the 1990s (remember self determination?) where emphasis was on employment.
    Yet today, we still see “training programs” for Aboriginal people no real jobs though. Continual training of Aboriginal people is an industry for everyone else. There are big bucks in it.
    Unfortunately some people have now become conditioned to others doing almost everything for them that many have become idle.
    Land councils fit in just nicely there as it serves their purposes well.

  4. @ Fred: Please check data before talking. We are in an employment crisis. No political party is even acknowledging this situation, let alone trying to fix it.
    A reality check on welfare overhaul is necessary: About 10 job seekers per vacancy.
    Job seekers v job vacancy official data.
    By comparing the Australian Bureau of Statistics (seasonally adjusted) on unemployment, underemployment and hidden unemployment with the Department of Employment’s job vacancies statistics, we are able to get an invaluable insight – albeit almost certainly understated – into the state of Australia’s labour market.
    That is maybe why it is easier to lock up teenagers rather than educated them as there are no jobs.

  5. Apparently, the office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) is being quietly downscaled. That is the office that was established following the Intervention, to do a better job than ATSIC did in its days.
    Well, the PM&C is a failed experiment too. Indigenous affairs with the Turnbull government it appears, is not a priority.
    In the scheme of things, it is relegated to down the back somewhere.
    States and Territories to take over. Anything established to do with Indigenous affairs, is always an experiment.

  6. @ Evelyne: If you want a job you can always find one, you just cannont be picky at what job you take. We have people who have been on welfare for more than three generations. You cannot tell me that there has been a job crisis all this time. I’ts a matter of having the will to work.
    The problem is that welfore is too good. As for the children being locked up, if the parents looked after them they would not be I this position.
    It is time they stopped blaming everyone else for their actions.
    @ Trevor: There is not going to be much profit if we give the meat away. Will it be Halal certified?

  7. What? About $35/day is too good? And to get that you have to work 25 hours per week? Fred, you clearly can’t count.

  8. @ Maths: Let’s be honest, no many are doing the 25 hours per week required to receive welfare. A lot of the figures in communities are misconstrued. They can always go out and look for a job, any type of Job!

  9. Oh dear, where to start;
    Hal, CLC is a Commonwealth Statuary Authority under the Federal Land Rights Act.
    It is bound by all the regulations covering these, and is one of the most rigorously scrutinised bodies of its kind.
    WA Land Councils are subject to totally different laws and control.
    Alan, camels ARE feral pests. They have been trashing the environment in Central Australia for a couple of decades. Commercial development cannot control the numbers.
    Farmed animals may become a viable industry, but despite the efforts of Governments, and lots of public money it hasn’t happened yet.
    Trevor, wishful thinking is no match for commercial reality. Even if it could be harvested at a viable cost (from the Simpson desert for example) which it can’t, it is still problematic.
    What about the existing meat industries?
    Ever heard the slogan “give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Give a man a line he eats for a lifetime”.
    Giving away meat would destroy the meat producers in the target economy.


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