Cattlemen in the archives

Unravelling a near century of history from the perspective of Northern Territory (NT) pastoralists and documenting the development of lobby groups aiming to advance and protect the interests of cattle producers, the records from the NT Cattlemen’s Association and its predecessors are of remarkable value.

Anyone with an interest in the NT’s history will appreciate the important role the pastoral industry has played in the settlement and development of the region since the later 19th century. 

While there had been several unsuccessful attempts to develop northern Australia since 1824, the early pastoralists proved to be a driving force in large-scale settlement in the period from the mid-1860s onward. 

Much public attention has been given to the biographies of early pastoralists. 

The extreme isolation and hardships they faced have been the basis of a variety of literary works and historical studies, including the topics of: 

  • drought, lack of infrastructure, and stock diseases 
  • their struggle for advancement and political influence 
  • the complex relationships that developed with the dispossessed original owners of the land, the Aboriginal people on whose skills as stockmen they came to rely on heavily for many decades.

Unravelling a near century of history from the perspective of NT pastoralists and documenting the development of lobby groups aiming to advance and protect the interests of cattle producers, the records from the NT Cattlemen’s Association and its predecessors are of remarkable value. 

The period from 1895 had laid the foundations for a strong modern cattle industry, and in 1923 disillusionment with government policy led to the formation of the Sydney-based Northern Territory Pastoral Lessees’ Association (NTPLA). 

Several related associations emerged over the years representing fractional and regional pastoral interests, until in 1963 the Northern Territory Cattle Producers’ Council emerged to coordinate the policy of three member organisations, which were the NTPLA, the Cattlemen’s Association of North Australia (CANA) with headquarters in Katherine, and the Centralian Pastoralists Association (CPA) based in Alice Springs. 

Eventually, the Northern Territory Cattle Council was formally dissolved by members who then participated in the inaugural meeting of the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association (NTCA) in Tennant Creek on 11 July 1984.

The NTCA is the peak primary industry lobby group and its objectives include promoting the development of cattle and land resources, collecting and disseminating information of relevance to cattle producers, maintaining public relations and co-operating with related unions and associations, and securing legal advice and assistance for members. 

Cattlemen records

The records held at the Northern Territory Archives Service (NTAS) include the records listed below.

All series are restricted for 30 years and researchers must get permission to view/copy/publish the restricted series and/or items. One series is open, four series are part open and 21 series are restricted.

Contact the NTAS for more information.

NTPLA  NTRS 3547, General records, 1914 to 1962

This series consists of 40 bound volumes containing correspondence, circulars, minutes, newspaper clippings, annual reports and reports from other organisations. 

The volumes were kept according to subjects such as Aboriginals, arbitration, branding, circulars, dips, meat industry, mustering, stock routes, and taxation. 

The contents are arranged chronologically within each subject and some volumes contain more than one subject. This series of volumes is in open access.

NTPLA, NTRS 3548, administration and correspondence files, 1910 to 1994

This series consists of administration and correspondence files containing correspondence, circulars, minutes, newspaper clippings, annual reports and general reports from most of the organisations which amalgamated to form the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association. 

Included are the Executive Minutes of the first organisation to represent Northern Territory pastoralists, the Northern Territory Pastoral Lessees' Association (unit 1, item A1/1A), a published statement relating to the history and purpose of the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association (unit 33, item C2/3G), and a copy of the constitution of the Cattlemen's Association of North Australia (unit 43, item D3/2F). This series of files is partly open.

Last updated: 21 April 2016