Best Outback Stories

Read The Shortlisted Entries

More than 2000 people entered our competition to win a trip to Wooleen Station. Entrants had to respond to the question, why is the Outback special to you? Read some of the shortlisted entries here.

An array of contrasts

The Western Australian Outback displays the most amazing array of contrasts, contradictions and surprises. Just when you think you have seen it all, something unexpected and thrilling appears before your eyes; the way the light dances and shimmers off the cliffs; or the sudden oasis of a wetland that supports a whole unique ecosystem of dependent and interdependent plant and animal species.

I marvel at the adaptation of plants and animals that call this, at times harsh, environment their home; the seeds that remain dormant for years, until the next downpour of rain, only to blossom wildly after the soil receives a good soaking; the animals that have devised clever strategies throughout the ages, for managing the massive extremes of daily heat and nightly cold.

This country, on the one hand lets me breathe, free from the chemicals and pollutants of the city, but at the same time, makes me breathless at its utter wild beauty. It replenishes your soul and leaves you fresh, excited and willing to immerse yourself in the next exhilarating experience this country will provide.

Our inner map

WA's outback is special to all of us. This great tract of country, through its vastness and beauty, challenges us to understand and accept our true place on the planet - not as one of a species which is superior to others or as a conqueror of nature, but as part of the environment, no more important than any other. Our inner map is there to find or not to find - a red dirt track, a campsite near a dry waterway, a parting of yellow grass where kangaroos travel, a lizard's stony trail through a sea of spinifex, a mirage up ahead - a line of mountains which will turn out to be nothing at all, or an opening in the scrub where the remains of a  tin fireplace and a rusted enamel teapot are all that's left of a dream.

We can touch base out there - see ourselves as we really are, and begin to understand the immense task we have ahead, to protect this country and work towards an ecologically sustainable future.

Travels by camel

Many years ago I travelled into the desert on a camel. Many people who were driving their 4-wheel-drives stopped us and asked, aren't you bored out here. My answer, how could I possibly be bored when each new day brings natural wonders so spectacular, that I am in awe of them, sunrises and sunsets like huge fires in the sky or with colours like purples, torquoises, pink and more.

How can one be bored breathing in clean air in this vast area, this land full of fauna, flora never to be seen elsewhere, caterpillars that seem to smile, huge curious goannas that look around before they take off up a tree, harmless and beautiful. But most of all how can you be bored when the local human residents treat you like their own family, would drop everything for you if you were in need and come help.

To me the outback is a very special place that we need to support wholeheartedly, we need the outback much more than most city dwellers realise. I support the outback.

In a galaxy far, far away

Away from the lights of the cities and towns on a warm summer's night, you can sip on an ice cold beer, lay back and look up at the awesome (in the true sense of the word) vista of a billion stars twinkling back at us over a trillion miles of space and know that somewhere out there in the far corner of the galaxy somebody (or something), on a dirty, smoky, dry, crowded and polluted planet is looking up through a telescope and has focussed on a tiny, insignificant blue planet; zoomed in on the bottom half on a land mass with two lumps at the top, looked at the left hand side of it, seen the turquoise ocean, the clean air and the room to move and thought to him/her/it self "Geez! Wouldn't it be bloody lovely to live in Western Australia?"

The most "can do" people

I was born and bred in the outback and had to leave when I was seventeen. I have longed to return over the years and have even worked as a roustabout in a shearing team at forty five just to have the experience again. Never again.

The beautiful red dirt, the blue skies and the different hues of green are such an amazing contrast and remind you of the seasons you can have. It can be so desolate and hard on life with drought yet so beautiful and soft in a good season, but ultimately it can burn into your soul and leave an indelible print that stays always.

People of the outback are just the most caring, resilient, independent "can do" people you will meet. Nothing is too much or hard for them, they give it a go and will help anyone who needs a hand.

Amazing friendships were forged in the outback and always remain with you into your future. So many of those friends have now gone but my memories of them linger and my life in the outback is just that, a distant memory that I will cherish always.

Something far larger than myself

For me, the ability to walk through a landscape that has endured for millions of years in relative isolation from the rest of the globe, brings a feeling of humility and a deep appreciation of what makes the rugged beauty of the Australian outback so special. The vast open spaces make me feel connected to something far larger than myself - a continuing story of survival and evolution throughout the rangelands despite the challenges brought by fire, flood and drought.

Perhaps the most special aspect of the Australian outback, is the people who live there. The rangeland communities of Western Australia play a vital role in managing the natural assets of this beautiful landscape. The importance of progressive and innovative approaches to land management, exemplified by those undertaken at Wooleen Station is paramount to the preservation and continuation of the story of the Western Australian rangelands. I would love to experience this story first hand, so that I might better understand the links between the natural environment and human activity. 

Outback poem

I love the WA outback
A place superb and vast
The land which we all must protect
To make sure it will last.

I love the northern Outback
The land of Pindan dust
The rich red of the Pilbara
Is every traveller’s must.

I love the southern outback
A land of tall trees and vines
The beauty of WA’s south
Appeals to visitors of all kinds.

I love the eastern outback
That lonely Nullarbor plain
No matter how often I cross it
The wonder will never wane. 

Our children and their children
Deserve to enjoy our state
The WA outback must be cared for
So all can see it’s great

I love the WA outback
No matter where I arrive
Derby Giles Sandstone Wooleen
I hope they all survive.

Growing up in Newman

Growing up in Newman, I had the whole Pilbara as my playground. To this day, there is nothing quite as special as a thunderstorm in the Pilbara... They came out of nowhere most of the time.

I'd sit in class watching the huge, black clouds roll in over our tiny little town; waiting in anticipation, knowing the final siren was about to go and we'd all soon be making a mad dash to the bike racks to make it home before the skies opened up. You never forget THAT smell; the smell of those first few raindrops hitting the scorching hot road; so hot it would sometimes make roads look like they were smouldering.

I was lucky in my street growing up in Newman. Every time we were lucky enough to get a big storm roll through, good old Wilara Street would flood down one end where strong currents of red, muddy water would gush through storm water drains through to Kurra Street. All of us thought it was the best fun ever! Not stopping for one second to think about how dangerous it was; it was the highlight of our "wet season"...

Forever a Pilbara kid at heart...

Hard won memories

The fact that to really get to love it, you need to have spent real time in it. To see the sunrises and the sunsets and the contrast of the harsh light of the midday sun. The hidden water holes that become so much more special when it's taken two days to reach them. To get to that special hour when the flies have disappeared and the mozzies are yet to arrive. To finally get to a servo and enjoy a really cold iced coffee more than any latte you've ever had. To see how hard the people who live there work to make a life for themselves and their families. These are things that build cherished sometimes hard won memories - that last a lifetime

Angels in the Dust

It is 1978 and the location is off the old Nicholson Road just a few Kilometres west of the WA/NT border.

I am in a hidden valley where many years ago pastoralists built a rock wall and dammed a small creek, the sides of the valley are almost vertical and tall Pandanus palms grow alongside the valley walls.

The creek runs its clear waters through an avenue of trees into the small dam.

I sit on the rock wall and soothe my feet in the cool water and look back up the creek.

I can see the sun making columns of light shining through the trees like miniature stage lights playing on the surface of the water.

Butterflies are swooping in and out of these columns of light like angels on high.

All is quiet and I am at peace.

Now many years later I can still close my eyes, picture the scene and I am at peace.

The Prize Included

Two return airfares from Perth to Geraldton
Four days’ 4WD hire from Geraldton
Three nights’ accommodation and all meals for two people at the historic Wooleen Homestead
Dinner hosted by station owners David Pollock and Frances Jones
Tour of Wooleen Station with David

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