Newcastle Waters, NT – Angus and Fiona Mitchell

“Our association with Angus and Fiona began quite dramatically in 1998. Twelve years have certainly flown by ………….”

We pulled into Roses’ Yards on the Great Northern Highway at the Springvale Station turnoff, near Halls Creek, Western Australia, having arranged to meet the stock camp, open the shop, and spend the night. We arrived to the news that the Head Stockman, Angus Mitchell, had been injured during a necessary clean out of feral bulls in isolated gorge country at the South end of Springvale. Angus will never forget the incident – being attacked by a shorthorn bull from behind, caught between the animals’ horns and driven into the ground. The helicopter pilot managed to get between Angus and the bull, and Angus escaped, running to the chopper, and safety. He sums it up …. “Yeah, that was an experience … I’ve still got the scars.”

Angus met his wife, Fiona, a Longreach girl, at Springvale. Employed as the station bookkeeper, she was there “for a change, for a year.” Famous last words!

In 2001, the couple moved to Carlton Hill, a Consolidated Pastoral Company station, near Kununurra, WA. Angus was overseer, and in 2003 became manager. “It was a fantastic place to live and work, close to town and the coast.” In May 2005, they were transferred to Newcastle Waters station, mid Northern Territory and found that it was geographically and socially very different; relatively isolated, and a very long way from any ocean. However, they’ve made the adjustment, and their Newcastle Waters experience has included the birth of their two children, Charlie and Lucy, and Angus and Fiona regard Newcastle Waters as home; “a great environment for raising kids.” Angus has had a lifetime of work in the cattle industry; growing up on his families’ property, West of Armidale. When he left school, he spent 5 years in the Gulf country of Queensland with AA Company, and then 3 years at “Woodhouse Station”, near Townsville, before heading to the Kimberleys. His diverse experiences have equipped him for the challenges of managing Newcastle Waters, one of CPC’s biggest cattle stations.

Angus believes the key features of Newcastle Waters are the quality and temperament of the cattle and the diversification of activity. Newcastle Waters operates a stud and commercial herd, and 1000 to 1200 bulls are bred each year. 80%of these are for other CPC stations, and approximately 200 bulls are sold beyond the company. The stock horse stud at Newcastle Waters had the benefit of breeding with Warrenbri Chadrack for three years before he died, and at present the station has a five year old Omega stallion, Asha Bravo.

The Newcastle Group as it is known includes Dungowan Station and Ucharonidge Station, and both work in conjunction with Newcastle Waters. Angus is convinced that Newcastle Waters’ greatest benefit is “its ability to pull through in tough times.”

Keeping in front of developments in technology, ensuring staff morale, and maintaining efficiency is a continual challenge for Angus. In 2008, a weaner camp was established to assist the stock and stud camps, and this has spread the work load, improved the quality of cattle care, and generally “taking the pressure off”. CPC is proactive in providing a structured career path for its workers, with attainable rewards. Positions of leadership are filled from within the company, which is a positive incentive for employees. Angus and Fiona regard CPC, under the leadership of Ken Warriner, as “family orientated” with a desire to look after people. Although she’s occupied with mothering two young children, Fiona is a competent assistant for Angus, and takes a vital interest in the running of the station. Currently she is satisfied that Angus is doing what he enjoys, and she partners with him in a valuable support role. Piloting a plane is both beneficial and enjoyable for Angus, allowing him to travel quickly and efficiently from one station to another and gain a birds-eye view of the country and the cattle.

It’s a privilege to know Angus and Fiona; their dedication and commitment to the cattle industry is admirable, and its good to visit them each year. An atmosphere of vibrancy and youthful exuberance abounds when the three stock camps all get together, and a BBQ at the Rec club is a crowded and noisy occasion. It’s definitely a challenge to gain ‘group attention’ for the annual Kent Saddlery photo shoot!

We have a long standing joke with Fiona regarding our preference to be known as ‘travelling saddlers’ rather than hawkers, and she is consistently aware of our problem with the hawker description. “People know when you’re coming and we always enjoy catching up. We appreciate the fact that you cater for everyone – girls too – and we don’t class you as a hawker either!” Thank you Fiona – you’re a gem!