Walhallow Station, NT – Cameron and Felicity Fulcher

“Grinners are Winners”

In May of 2010, Cameron and Felicity Fulcher had been at Walhallow Station, NT for thirteen years. Currently owned and operated by Paraway Pastoral Co, Walhallow was a Prudential property when Cameron applied for the management position in 1997. To get to Cloncurry, Qld, for the interview, the couple left Cameron’s family owned property, Ooratippra, Alice Springs around 2:00am, then drove back to Ooratippra, arriving home at midnight. Following the successful application, they “turned up on the doorstep” at Walhallow, sight unseen, some three weeks into the first muster. Cameron grins, and is quick to comment, “It was all exciting.”

“Quick” is a good description for the Fulchers – along with “energetic”, “vital”, and “committed”. Walhallow covers an area of 10,300 sq kilometres, and is excellent breeding country. Cameron has planned carefully and worked hard to develop more country, increasing the carrying capacity from 30,000 head in 1997 to 48,000 head in 2010. Weaners are transported to Davenport Downs in the Channel Country, Clonagh Station in the Qld Gulf, and there are also opportunities to send cattle north to the boat market.

Cameron’s life has been spent on cattle stations, apart from the necessary years spent at boarding school in Sydney. His Dad managed the NT Stations of Anthony Lagoon, Kirkimbie, and Cox River near Nutwood Downs, and Cameron’s childhood was spent on places in NSW, and Warwick, Qld. He enrolled at Longreach Pastoral College, Qld, for two years, and his first jackeroo job was at Morstone Downs Station, near Camooweal, Qld. Consequent jobs at NT Stations Brunchilly, Tennant Creek and Rockhampton Downs added to Cameron’s cattle handling experience and skills, mostly learned in the stock camps where he, two, or three other jackeroos and seven or eight indigenous stockmen “camped out most of the time. We hardly ever went into the station.”

He returned to his parents’ property, Ooratippra, Alice Springs, and in May 1996, at the Ti-Tree Campdraft, he met Felicity Day. Felicity chips in, addressing us, “You’ve never been to Ti- Tree?…NO!” She had grown up on her family’s property in the south-east of South Australia, between Bordertown and Naracoorte. Boarding school in Adelaide was followed by a six year career with David Jones. Then, wanting to fulfil a desire to go governessing, an advertisement in the “Stock Journal” resulted in Felicity choosing a governess position at “Napperby,” straight up the highway from home. She “loved it, loved it… the country and the kids”. Returning for a second year in 1996, in May she attended the Ti-Tree Campdraft, and met Cameron. Following the ‘Governess meets the Cowboy’ incident, their first official date was to a ball in September. They became engaged the following January, and were married at the end of 1997.

The weekend they travelled towards Walhallow to begin work, they spent the night in Tennant Creek, and Felicity suggested that in the morning they might drive around their new home town and get to know it. Cameron was compelled to reply, “You’ve seen it!” They were travelling in two cars, and setting out for Walhallow; Felicity recalls, “I was driving, driving!… I couldn’t believe it! She had always hoped to “live in the country”, but had no idea of what life at Walhallow would be like. “This is country – a whole lot of country really! Still, I’d come for a few years; I thought it was only temporary. I didn’t realise it would be the pathway to my life.”

The last thirteen years at Walhallow have moulded the life the couple love and appreciate. For their two children, Tom 11, and Lucy 9, Walhallow is home, and Cameron and Felicity believe it’s been good to stay in one place, to provide stability and continuity for their children. The day before, Felicity had driven 1000kms, returning with Tom and Lucy from a Distance Education School Camp in Alice Springs. They’d all had a great time, Felicity noting that all the participants were willing to “give anything a go; happy to be with other students and have new and challenging things to do”. The Fulchers enjoy having young people around them – Cameron stimulated by the challenge of training and encouraging the young ones in the industry, and Felicity providing the pastoral care side of things… feeding, money, and the health and wellbeing of people. There’s evidence of a good balance between the different roles that Cameron and Felicity fulfil. Cameron is very much a hands-on, working manager, and in addition to the office/planning aspects of the job, Felicity endorses Cameron’s active involvement in “digging holes, chasing cows, whatever they’re doing, he’s out there doing it”.

For her part, Felicity emphasises the need for “brain breaks” when she can take five minutes with a cup of tea, sit on the front steps “facing the other way and gaze at the garden instead of viewing the sheds”.

The Walhallow management duo have always maintained their sense of humour and Felicity’s spontaneous responses to ordinary events are entertaining and uplifting. Of the “millions of funny stories” Felicity says she has to tell, she remembers one Christmas, when they and the Station staff had all dressed up, and Cameron was about to carve the turkey. Answering a knock on the door, she was greeted by a truck driver, who announced he’d come to deliver a load of hay for some neighbours. “What?… it’s Christmas!” was Felicity’s exasperated greeting, “haven’t you got a family or something to be spending the day with?” “Yes,” came the gruff reply, “and I’d love some help so I can get back to Toowoomba to see them.”

It was a typical 40 degree Barkly Tablelands summer day, and Cameron and the men helped unload the hay, and a tractor which they ‘discovered’ under the hay. Felicity decided it was best to relax, switch off the stove, open a bottle of champagne, and play with the kids until the job was complete. The workers then showered and changed into boardies, thongs and singlets, and they sat down to Christmas lunch at 3.30pm.

On another occasion, their 11th wedding anniversary to be exact, Felicity was hoping that and wondering if something different might happen to make the day memorable in some way. She proceeded to clean the kids’ bathroom, and lo and behold, in the toilet, instead of the usual green frogs, she discovered – the first ever indoor cane toad. “What do you know,” she thought, “now there’s something different!”

After thirteen years living on the Barkly, the Fulchers have established friendships, and contributed to the community. At the time of our visit they were involved in the immense amount of organisation for the up and coming annual Brunette Races… a big event in 2010 – the 100th anniversary. Participating in Women’s Days at the Barkly Roadhouse, attending School of the Air events, and everyday life at the Station keeps them challenged and occupied. They are a couple who give absolutely; enthused by, and personally interested in every aspect of life at Walhallow. If Cameron’s broad grin is any indication, they have experienced an abundant measure of enjoyment and satisfaction since the day, thirteen years ago, when the cowboy and the governess “turned up on the doorstep” of Walhallow, and, according to Felicity “away we went!”