History of Karunjie Station

At Home Valley Station, we celebrate our history and feel obliged to impart as much of its interesting facts to our guests.

The Home Valley cattle drive used to traverse the Barclay Stock Route, which runs approximately 650kms from Home Valley Station to the West Kimberley. This stock route is named after the explorer Herbert "Henry" Vere Barclay who in 1877 and 1878 led the Herbert River and North East Exploring Expedition. The purpose of this expedition was to explore and survey the country east of Alice Springs to the Queensland border.

Providing a glimpse into the pastoral industry in Western Australia and that of Karunjie Station is the story of David William Rust (1892-1981). Born in Scotland, Rust emigrated as a young man and together with Scotty Salmond enlisted in the 10th Light Horse Regiment when Australia entered the Great War. On his return from service in the Western Desert he worked in the pastoral industry before jointly taking up Karunjie Station with Salmond under the Soldier Settlers Scheme in 1926.

Additionally the men had backing from the Government Meatworks at Wyndham. The large station had previously been owned by Scotty (James) Sadler and it became available when Sadler moved to Tableland.

It was rough tribal country in the early days and the men built their little stone hut in a well cleared area on the crest of a rise with a free field of fire. Without dogs for protection they would not have survived in that remote country. Their homestead was located 160 kilometres by road south west of Wyndham, near where the original Gibb River road crossed the Durack River.

Like their neighbours Bluey O'Malley and Jack 'Diamond' Dixon on Elgee Cliffs Station; Rust and Salmond had their own camels and pack horses to transport the stores and other materials from the Port of Wyndham. Bluey later worked on the roads for the Shire and his name is immortalised at Bluey O'Malley's Crossing where the Wyndham Karunjie Road crosses Bindoola Creek. Once a track was established Rust and Salmond travelled to Derby with their tractor and trailer to collect supplies for Karunjie.

In 1944 the Meatworks gave Rust the job of looking for a route to bring cattle through from the Fitzroy Valley for slaughter at Wyndham. Accompanied by cattlemen Frank Lacey and Frank Martin, Rust rode south from Karunjie to the Fitzroy River where they turned north and took their time searching for country soft enough for bullocks bred on river plains to walk over. They finally selected a route that followed the Traine River upstream from the Fitzroy, over the divide to the head of the Chapman which led them on to the established Gibb River Route. Despite the care taken in selecting the route it was to prove too rough for beasts bred on river flats and the only two attempts to take cattle this way failed.

In 1945 the partners bought a mob of heifers from Rosewood Station on the W.A. /N.T border where John Kilfoyle had some of the best cattle in the Kimberley area. When Dave and Scotty took delivery of their mob at Rosewood, Kilfoyle explained to them that a shower of rain had put out the fire during the branding process and as the irons became cold the brands on some of the heifers had not taken very well. Because they had to pass through Argyle, Dunham and Ivanhoe Stations on their way to Karunjie, Kilfoyle suggested they take a branding iron with them in case it became necessary to touch up some of the brands.

Like most other pastoral leases at the time, Karunjie employed Indigenous labour from the region and beyond. Jack Campbell was overseer for Rust and Salmond until the station was sold in 1960. Jack's Hole on the Durack River, sixty kilometres downstream from Karunjie Station was named after him, as was Campbell Creek. Jack was originally a Queenslander and together with his 'ringer' mates left Camooweal on horseback in 1922 and worked his way across the Top End to the Kimberley. Campbell met Rust at Fish Hole and was hired by him then. He later married a traditional owner of the Karunjie Station area.

The Salmond River is named after Scotty Salmond who was badly injured when his horse fell backwards while scrambling up the bank of a creek. He was taken to hospital in Perth. When he died he was buried in the Gully Cemetery in Wyndham.

Dave Rust was ahead of his time with agriculture. He carried a botany press and kept in contact with the Department of Agriculture in South Perth. Back in those days they were still searching for the noxious plant that was responsible for causing Walkabout and the untimely death of hundreds of horses throughout the Kimberley. Eventually the cause was traced to some species of the Crotalaria plant which continues to threaten horses today.

Rust died in Wyndham in 1981 having sold Karunjie Station to Tom Orly in 1960. The plaque on his limestone headstone was supplied by the R.S.L and inscribed 'A Soldier, Pioneer and Gentleman'.

He smoked a home-made clay pipe and kept a tea towel with a Scottish motif which no doubt reminded him of his origins. Rust did not marry and following his death, his personal items and photo collection were donated to the Battye Library by Elizabeth Durack. Other items handed into the Battye Library from the Rust collection include an address book, letter books, postcards, and detailed lists of his employees, a bushman's first aid kit and a sketch by Elizabeth Durack of Bill Lavery and the Station secretary. Some early images have been provided by the Battye Library for use on our website.

Tom Orly, an Argentinean, was no cattleman, however his brother was a successful rancher back home and Tom had dreams of becoming a cattle baron in Australia. He was completely out of touch with reality and early on drove into Wyndham in a jeep and swaggered into the pub, all rigged up with a .45 revolver holstered low on a belt full of cartridges. Sergent Gilchrist or one of the other cops took the firearm off him and not wanting to look foolish Orly went to Bessie Wiley's shop nearby and bought a toy gun to fill his holster.

Orly's arrogance did not endear him to the Aborigines and one night while droving a small mob of cattle to the Meatworks they were camped out of Wyndham on the Twelve Mile when a blue started and the stockmen got stuck into him with rocks which did a lot of damage to his head. He never fully recovered from this.

Warwick Edwards who had previously worked on Anna Plains in 1960 and also for the Shire was Orly's head stockman. The largest mob he mustered for Orly and delivered to Wyndham was one hundred and thirty about 1964.

Today Karunjie Station is owned by the Indigenous Land Corporation. It was bought from Ian Sinnamon in 1999; the eastern sector is named Durack River Station, the other Pentecost Downs, however it is still referred to as Karunjie. Its tourism services are now cared for by Home Valley Station managers. While most of the homestead buildings at Karunjie have either been partly or completely destroyed by floods and termites our tour guides can certainly point out some frail but still existing structures and places of interest when you are touring this area, and can explain the pastoral works and activity now underway.

The future combining the management of Home Valley, Durack River and Karunjie Stations makes for a diversification success story!

Historically, Home Valley Station has been in existence as a pastoral lease since 1957 when Harold MacNamara came from managing Mabel Downs for Naughtons to take up the lease.

Pastoralists of the day would say that Home Valley was well known as a 'poddy dodger's' corner (a poddy dodger being one who steals unbranded calves) as was the neighbouring station of El Questro. These stations were known as being part of the Underworld. One way or another McNamara had 700 head on it when he sold to Kevin Stansby and returned to work for Naughtons on Texas Downs.

In 1971 the ownership of Home Valley was in a state of flux; Kevin Stansby had brought the place from MacNamara and then subsequently had to sell the stock to raise the funds to pay Harold. Broke again, Stansby was looking for a buyer or a partner with money to invest.

Today MacNamara would have difficulty recognising Home Valley Station, as would Ian Sinnamon who next held the lease on Karunjie and Home Valley until 1999 and is regarded as the original "designer" of the old foundations on which Home Valley's architects built in 2008. Sinnamon created the Station's central hub now referred to as the Dusty Bar & Grill. Ian portrayed the qualities of a gentleman when hosting special Sunday Dinners at Home Valley, inviting all neighbouring Station owners and staff from the area and requesting they wore ties.

Jack's Hole was a big wide pool on the Durack River and with its grassy verges became a popular spot for campers in the 1970's when the Gibb River Road was realigned to pass close by. Sinnamon seeing the potential in tourism, constructed a rambling building at Jack's Hole called it Durack River Homestead and set out to entrap the tourist dollar. There had never been a building, cattle yard or wagon road there in the past. The only buildings on Karunjie were at the original homestead. Sinnamon also bought a 4WD people mover and conducted safari tours throughout the Kimberley. The construction at Jack's Hole was washed away in a flood; unwisely he rebuilt on the same site only to lose the lot in a later flood.

Home Valley was bought by the Indigenous Land Corporation in 1999 and was developed and opened as a pastoral, tourist and indigenous training centre in 2008.