Summer Land camels keep history alive

Harrisville camel dairy lives its history

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Jeff Flood hands out samples of camel milk for the living history day attendees to try.

Jeff Flood hands out samples of camel milk for the living history day attendees to try.

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A futuristic camel milking enterprise in the Fassifern Valley has celebrated Australia Day with a living history day.

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A futuristic camel milking enterprise in the Fassifern Valley has celebrated Australia Day with a living history day, marrying memories of pioneers and Indigenous Elders with its current enterprise in what it described as a “dynamic data set”.

Beginning with Indigenous Elder, John Long, who shared information on the early history of the area as well as stories about the significance of local landmarks and geographical features, it was conceived to give all with a connection to the property, be they owners or people who worked on the property, an opportunity to share.

“Paul and I aren't from this area originally, we're from central Queensland,” Jeff explained. “To come here and start a business and nestle yourself into the local community, it's really good to connect to the stories that come with a property.”

He added that for them, Australia Day was about looking forward to what they could do better, by connecting to history.

“For us it was, with the farming, people want to know where their food comes from, to know the history of the farm,” Paul said.

“Even today we found out it was actually a cheese factory before, which was very rare; (they were) leaders in their field in agriculture when they were here, creating these cheeses.

“We all think we're doing something different, and when you actually delve into history you find it's repeating itself.”

One of those occurred when Paul and Jeff established their camel dairy farm at Harrisville, on a property once known as Summerlands.

The property was owned by Allan and Bella Chauvel from 1901 to the mid-1930s. It was Allan’s brother, General Sir Harry Chauvel, who commanded the Anzac Mounted Division, incorporating the Imperial Camel Corps, in Palestine in World War One.

A photograph of the original home on the property when it was owned by the Chauvel family, that was added to the timeline on the day.

A photograph of the original home on the property when it was owned by the Chauvel family, that was added to the timeline on the day.

“With the Chauvel family and the link to camels, then we bring them all back to the property – it’s a phenomenal link to history and it sets us up for the future, if we can link all these foundations,” Paul said.

As Allan Chauvel’s grandaughter, Jan Gall, based at Toowoomba, recounted, a portion of Summerlands was let to sharefarmers and, by 1915, 220 acres of lucerne and maize were under cultivation and several dairies had been established.

“Allan invested heavily in importing and breeding the best dairying stock, bringing the foundation of an Ayrshire stud herd with him from Canning Downs South,” she said.

“Some of their progeny won championship medals at the Ipswich and Brisbane Royal Shows. He later commenced breeding Jerseys and Shorthorns.

“His pride and joy was reputed to be a prize bull called Spicy King, which he imported at a cost of 5000 pounds.

“Unfortunately, I don’t know which breed he was but a neighbour found him trespassing and shot him dead.”

Summer Land Camel Dairy principals, Jeff Flood and Paul Martin, with members of the extended Chauvel family that spoke on the day - Sally Gall, Blackall, Jan Gall, Toowoomba, Sally Ridgeway, Texas, and Ric Carlsson, Toowoomba.

Summer Land Camel Dairy principals, Jeff Flood and Paul Martin, with members of the extended Chauvel family that spoke on the day - Sally Gall, Blackall, Jan Gall, Toowoomba, Sally Ridgeway, Texas, and Ric Carlsson, Toowoomba.

Jeff said they wanted people to share with an open mind.

“History’s never that simple – there’s always lot of perspectives,” he said.

The story of Summerlands was described as encapsulating the history of Australia – connections with the Indigenous community, the early settlers and how they connected with the land, then the first and second world wars and how they imported people and camels.

“There was a sample of everything,” Jeff said.

Paul added that part of their role at the present-day Summer Land camel dairy was to enlighten people on Australia’s connection with camels.

“Obviously we've gone through a history of culling them and wanting to get rid of them because we introduced them, without actually telling the story of what they did in building the country,” he said.

“We've got so many other feral pests out there that have actually done nothing to develop the country at all – cats and pigs.

“The camel opened up the first phone lines from Adelaide to Darwin and it goes on.

“This is an animal that has a mystique and a pioneering.

“It's been our privilege to show that, and I suppose show people – most go away from here with a completely different perspective on what they've been sold, about these animals being a pest.”

Jeff said the property timeline would evolve as new information was added, and that it would be made available to people.

“So they understand who we are and where we come from, not just us as a business,” he said.

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