Horses perish in abandoned Aboriginal outstation


Horses died in a house on an abandoned Aboriginal outstation about 20 km from Docker River apparently because they went inside in search of water and the door slammed shut behind them.
They may also have been kicking or bumping into the door, shutting it.
There was a similar drama in another outstation near that remote community in the south-western Northern Territory.
The observation was made by a reader who does not want to be named. He also took these photographs, and provided the following comments:-
Outstation water supplies are not maintained. In drought times horses and camels seek water in communities and break taps and dig pipelines with their hooves to access water.
They will enter houses and try to find water in basins and toilets.
Service providers don’t see it as their responsibility to avoid this situation by checking unoccupied houses, for which they don’t get government funding to maintain.
At many funded outstations, roads, water supplies and houses don’t get these facilities maintained anyway: Resources are being spent on closer-in ones.
This results in them becoming uninhabitable, service providers saying no-one now lives there and see no reason to continue maintaining them.
Infrastructure then deteriorates to the extent these outstations are abandoned.
The land council declare large areas of Indigenous Land Trusts as Reserves which results in all animals except native ones declared as pests needing to be removed.
There is a solar bore, tank and stock trough 30 meters away which is unserviceable.
The owner of the outstation has asked the Land Council, the service provider and every appropriate person government person, can they help him get the water supply operating to water his horses for the last 10 years, to no avail.
The outstation owner sees them as an opportunity for some economic income and work for young people otherwise on unemployment benefits, listening to music and on drugs in the community.
Community people don’t seem to be aware that if they want horses around, they need to access drinking water.
Very few leave buckets of water in their yards.
In dry times horses that don’t migrate to communities in search of water will go to creeks and water holes and dig with their hooves, hoping to get a drink from a soakage.
Most often they will not move from there, waiting for it to replenish, die of thirst and pollute any remaining ponds.
Until the recent rains they were doing this in the western areas of the Petermann Reserve.
Whose responsibility is it to avoid this?


  1. The “outstation owner” can engage a driller, find water, put in a pump, put up a tank and trough anytime they wish.
    Hang on! There is a bore and infrastructure already present!
    So that work has ALREADY been done by someone in the past (I would almost guarantee NOT paid by for the outstation owner).
    Like most things “community” they are never followed up, or maintained or improved by that community, but those community members are happy to blame someone else when it doesn’t work. There is no rocket science to keeping a solar bore working.
    But there is commitment needed. Regularly, consistently.
    All the stations, roadhouses, remote businesses in the region can make water happen without reverting to blaming someone else. They also do it without the huge amount of tax payer funding that Aboriginal communities, in all their various parts, get.
    It is not someone else’s responsibility to provide water for the outstation owner. It is THEIR own responsibility.
    Where is the animal rights outcry about this atrocious situation? If this had happened anywhere else but on “lands” we’d be hung, drawn and quartered.

  2. Doubtful there was the scent of water inside that building.
    More likely the horses were caught by locals and locked in the building with the intention of coming back later.
    Other events such as a funeral intervened and the horses were left to die in agony.
    Horrible but remote desert Aboriginal cultural values are very different from Western ones.
    As with other groups that survived in a harsh environment remote many Aboriginal people have little empathy with animals, perhaps with the exception of their dogs.
    Kids make a toy from a lizard by breaking its legs.
    Camels are caught and tied up, ultimately to die.
    Emus are kept alive and fresh by breaking their legs as has been practiced for countless generations.

  3. Terrible to see. Outstations were built at a time when desert people still cared about maintaining their culture, heritage, the land of their forefathers, protecting country and sacred sites.
    There are a couple of strongholds, but mostly these homelands are “weekend-jobs” at best.
    Today outstations are more often bickered over from afar, than maintained by committed, healthy people.
    If cultural knowledge and language continues in this decline, the ownership, inheritance and residence of these outstations will be an area to look out for, particularly closer to town.
    Where once land was inherited via traditional inheritance, now people with distant claims exercising European style property rights, or knowledge only of English are resident king-pins.

  4. Disgusting. The owner of this outstation should be fined and made to ensure this can’t happen again.

  5. Pewrle, Peter and JB: Concise insightful replies to the article. Straight talking is the only way to effect change.
    No animal should die like that. As said if this was to happen in the green hills of the east there would be a sustained national outcry.

  6. @ JB: The lack of interest in maintaining most outstations by owners is illustrated by the destruction of millions of dollars of outstation infrastructure by fire.
    Buffel grass builds up around the outstation, dries out and a fire comes through.
    The most basic grass clearing around buildings would have saved it but no one did it.
    The Bushlight project funded 130 solar powered systems for Aboriginal communities.
    Aboriginal owners were trained and paid to maintain them.
    Through lack of maintenance 75 are currently not working.
    Many have been damaged by “locals”.

  7. People may be living on the land from time to time.
    Did these residents obtain clearly worded leases from the relevant corporate Land Trust(s)?
    If not, the relevant corporate Land Trust(s) should be held accountable.
    Failing to hold relevant corporate owners accountable before the courts appears either to be neglect of duty or an act of racism.

  8. These are animal atrocities in these so called outstations which are a complete waste of money and disrespect for what is the generosity of the Australian people for a [minority] group.
    If this is culture then I am not for it, it is high time for some Aboriginal people who find this uncivilised to make their voices be known.
    If not the stigma of being Aboriginal in mainstream Australia will continue to worsen.
    Shared this with other Australians – their response: Uncivilised culture.

  9. Saw the birth of the outstation movement. The Whitlam era.
    High-minded white activists from down south convinced everyone. The way to go.
    Quickly devolved into Toyota Dreaming Rivers of Gold.
    Lucrative for the gouging Spoggie Sparrows of this world.
    Brightly coloured ex-Government cars abandoned by the roadside out bush. In their hundreds.
    That was in the early 1970s. Fast forward. Almost 50 years on. Everything changes. Everything stays the same.

  10. I have seen and dealt with this problem in several outstations over the past three years and in EVERY case the problem was ENTIRELY the responsibility of the respective owners / occupiers, whether present or not!
    Of note was the similar situation at Mulga Bore and Angula outstations last year when more than 290 horses either perished or were euthanised during an aerial cull!
    There was almost no public outcry or ramifications, compared to when about 50 horses perished near Santa Theresa and people almost lost their minds!
    I spent a huge amount of time trying to get some action for the horses, including having to shoot more than 14 myself while waiting for the responsible people / authorities to take it seriously.
    To their great credit, CLC eventually came on board and managed to conduct an aerial cull!
    Many residents refuse to accept responsibility, blaming someone else!
    This news service has photographs from these outstations, showing the perishing horses and their conditions.
    Don’t even get me started on the RSPCA and some responsible government authorities, including local government!
    I got the distinct impression that no-one wanted to “upset” certain people or risk being described as racist, all while the horses were slowly and painfully perishing over a period of at least 14 months.
    There, rant done!

  11. I am yet to see this being reported across main stream media. I suppose they are afraid to upset a minority group.

  12. When it comes to animal rights whether you are Aboriginal or non Aboriginal the law must be unbiased. These horses were vulnerable. They died horrifically.

  13. This is the state our country is in.
    We are all too scared to say anything.
    Stuff racism, get on with it, it’s all our country.
    Charge them, the owners of the horses.

  14. And of course, you were all horrified and aghast and kicked up like buggery about the horrible live sheep export atrocious conditions and treatment. Not just black people doing these things you know.

  15. And people in Europe get angry at us because we have “donoe bad things and are responsible for looking after these people, and we caused all of their problems” etc.
    Gez I hate these people (the naive people in Europe and also the horrible people who we are not allowed to mention or we will be called racist).
    I love horses.


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