Well we are still staying at home and life is yet to look much different. We have continued to reach out to our friends in various parts of Australia. The last blog focused on the Maree Hotel and for this blog, we have moved a thousand kilometers north to Curtin Springs. Over quite a few years we have been visiting and staying at this million-acre cattle station. They have given us our own camping area and welcomed us as an extended part of their family. It is one of the highlights of our Central Australian journey and we look forward to seeing them all again either later this year or next year. The following letter comes directly from Curtin Springs and tells a little bit about who they are, what they do and a feeling of what it’s like to live in a quintessentially Australian location.
I’m Lyndee Severin from Curtin Springs in Central Australia. We have been fortunate enough to work with Auscamp for many years and would like to share with you what our world looks like at the moment.
Curtin Springs is a family-owned and operated business, located on the Lasseter Highway in the NT. We are 85km to the Ayers Rock Resort and 220km to the Kings Canyon Resort, so we are the perfect location to set up your base and visit these icons of the Red Heart of Australia. My father and mother-in-law, Peter and Dawn Severin arrived at Curtin Springs Station in 1956 to take over the cattle station. They had with them, their toddler son Ashley.
At that point, Curtin Springs Station was the end of the road. Ayers Rock did not exist as a tourist destination at that time. In the first year after they arrived, Peter and Dawn saw 6 visitors. Two stock and station agents who wanted them to buy some more cattle, two friends who thought they had perished, and two bonafide travelers.
The next year saw an increase to 9 visitors! Now that’s a percentage increase we would all like! The first drought Peter and Dawn experienced was for the first 9 years they were here. This made life a little tough for this new adventure! However, during this time, some early, adventurous visitors also started exploring the region.
Peter and Dawn started providing some meals and support to those early tourists. They then expanded to provide support for the early tourist companies that dipped their toes into the region. This provided a little bit of much-needed cash flow.
This was the commencement of Curtin Springs Wayside Inn, the tourist side of our diversified pastoral/tourism business. We were the first Wayside Inn in Central Australia. Over the next 6 decades, Curtin Springs has maintained a strong business diversification – producing beef on our million-acre wildlife corridor and providing services to visitors.
This diversification has allowed us to balance the needs of the landscape, our family, our bank manager, our staff and our visitors across a wide range of circumstances.
We have come out the other end of decade long droughts.
We have faced personal tragedy and loss.
We have experienced family highs and triumphs.
We have been a cornerstone of two major industries in the NT.
We have prospered.
And at times we have simply survived.
The current situation is simply the next wave we need to ride, to see which beach we are going to end up on.
Things are a little different at the moment.
The store is closed, so no bar, no meals, no store.
There is virtually no traffic on the road (as the national park and Ayers Rock Resort are closed).
Peter, who is now 92 is missing his 5pm daily appointment to sit in the bar and chat with visitors.
We have all our staff still living onsite. We are their home, not simply a place them come to work. As with all businesses, working through the logistics of how to keep some payroll going, with no income. But that is no different to most businesses at the moment.
We have two sponsored staff, who have created this most heartache for us. They are supporting families overseas. We, along with most NT businesses rely on a range of short term/sponsored staff to keep our businesses operating. We make a business and emotional commitment to these staff, who have made the very difficult decisions to leave their families to try and create a better future for them. This obligation is not simply a business choice, but a family and personal pledge as well, by both sides.
This has been very hard for everyone.
We do have a few frontline staff (police) staying with us who are manning a local checkpoint.
We are also providing the odd night of accommodation and meals for some of the local businesses (power/water/engineers etc) who are undertaking various maintenance works in the region.
This is providing a little amount of income to keep the generators operating!
It has also been very interesting to be back at a place where we are providing that support to the local travellers. We always do this, but sometimes the tourist visitors are so much larger in number and the local traffic gets a bit lost…
In some ways this is very fulfilling – to take that breath and rethink the core of the business. To be able to chat with ALL the visitors. To be able to make that personal connection with ALL the visitors.
We also have the benefit of the diversified business.
We are still very dry, having missed all the rain again over the summer.
We are taking the opportunity to lighten our cattle load, focusing on keeping our core herd of cows and calves safe. The benefit at the moment is that prices for cattle are reasonable, after the rain on the eastern seaboard.
We run British bred cattle (ie not brahams) and we don’t sell into the live export market..
Our cattle, coming from the extensive grazing of the centre, are very adapt at making the most of every blade of grass or little shrub and they stack on weight like blowing up balloons when they get some good feed. The perfect fit for the southern farmers who are looking for some cattle who can put on weigh easily and allow them to take advantage of their green grass to create a quick turnover (after multiple years of crippling drought and no cash flow for them).
So, the pastoral side of the business will keep some cashflow happening.
We are supporting other businesses in the region with practical support. Eg Uluru camels have got a few of their camels here in a paddock that helps them out with not needing to buy hay for them.
The local chatter sessions are vital to us all, as business owners talking and helping out each other. Again, something that often drops the list when the customer load is very heavy.
We are extremely fortunate in that we do have the wide open spaces in which to enjoy our ‘isolation’.
Bore runs still need to be done, some big stretches of fencing is on the list, outside maintenance still has to happen.
Our domesticated birds and animals, poddy calves and grandchildren all need some TLC. Cricket matches on the back lawn at dusk. Not having to worry about where the kids are on their bikes. The simple things.
I am spending time on our electronic footprint -refreshing and rethinking.
Is it all roses and rainbows.
Of course not.
There have been tears and tantrums. Bulk chocolate supplies have been consumed. The sleepless walking off the floor worrying. The need to walk way and not say the words on your lips – sometimes necessary.
However, we are in our home, we can spend as much time as we like outside.
Our business is operating as best it can in the current environment. We can generate some cashflow.
We are finding out who are friends and who are acquaintances.
Our solid relationship with our bank, our supplies and the other businesses we need to operate are even more important.
We are safe and healthy.
We are building stories of this time.
We firmly believe we will come out the other side intact. A bit bruised. A bit more fragile financially for a period of time.
The visitor numbers will slowly start again.
Locals will explore their backyard first.
Australians, we believe, we see an increased craving to see more of Australia.
Internation visitors, when they start, will seek parts of the world that are safer.
And we will be here to share with them, the wonders of our home.
Curtin Springs Lasseter Highway via Alice Springs NT 0872