THE pivotal role of pastoralists in developing WA and many long-standing myths about WA¹s pastoral i

31 Jan, 2007 08:45 PM
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On the same day in 1907, a meeting of interested parties convened by shipowner, timber merchant, gold entrepreneur and pastoralist Maurice Coleman Davies, appointed William Thorley Loton as inaugural president of the Pastoralists Association of WA.

Loton was not only one of WA¹s most successful businessmen at the time ‹ with large holdings at Upper Swan and Avon, chairmanship of WA Trustee and Executor Agency Co., and a directorship of the Western Australian Bank ‹ but he had also been Mayor of Perth, president of the Royal Agricultural Society and a member of State Parliament.

Under his early leadership, the organisation set important benchmarks in professionalism and independence, being careful to remain apolitical despite a strong conservative membership and leadership base.

The formation of the Royal Flying Doctor Service in WA was an important initiative of the association in the 1930s, as was the development of many ports, railways and communications processing and trading ventures in the early 1900s.

Interest in research was also strong, with members supporting the development of mulesing to control blowflies in sheep, and even importing egrets and dung beetles to help with the control of cattle tick and buffalo fly.

At times, necessity superseded the fiercely free enterprise charter of the PGA, notably with the establishment of state ships and later subsidisation of the northern services it provided, and with the acquisition of wool in both World Wars.

Industrial relations were also high on the agenda, with the association playing a dominant independent role in shearing conditions and dispute - often to the annoyance of other states.

Debates over the Aboriginal land rights processes of the 80s and 90s and the struggle for better pastoral land tenure are described in detail in A Long Hard Road, along with the fight to retain live sheep shipments and more recently, to restore competition in the lamb, wool and grain industries.

Mr McTaggart said the work was an essential reminder for all Western Australians of the extreme hardships endured by the early pioneers and their tenacity in overcoming major obstacles and setbacks.

³Some of the more accurate truths of relationships between pastoralists and Aboriginals, workers, bureaucrats, politicians and consumers clearly emerge in A Long Hard Road,² Mr McTaggart said.

³I share the author¹s hope that it will assist to achieve a more balanced understanding of the role both of the association and its members.²

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