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WA – Mt View Station wheat harvest a first – RIG News, Dec 2012

2013 January 15
by anthea
Bill and William Mallard, of Mt View Station, with Bob Vinson (centre), from the Department of Agriculture and Food’s Indigenous Landholder Service

Breaking new ground in WA - Mt View Station wheat harvest

After three generations involved with the land, the Mallard family in Western Australia’s wheatbelt have harvested their first wheat crop.

Their property, Mt View Station, is located at the northern tip of Western Australia’s wheatbelt and extends north into pastoral country, divided by the Murchison River. While a wheat crop is an annual part of business for most farmers in the area, it has been a significant challenge and achievement for the Mallard family who have traditionally relied on sheep and cattle.

Mt View Station was acquired by the Australian Government’s Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) and transferred to the Mallard family as the traditional owners in 2002.  Up until this season cropping, which requires significant capital investment and is subject to seasonal vagaries, had been considered too risky. The property has a caveat and the Mallard family sought the approval of the ILC Board to register a mortgage in order to finance the sharefarming cropping venture.

This is believed to be the first time in WA the Indigenous Land Corporation had lifted the caveat to allow finance to be accessed for cropping.

“We’ve wanted to do this for nearly 10 years but we had to convince the ILC that we could do it and we had to present a strong business case,” William Mallard said.

The family began working with a section of the Western Australian Department of Agriculture and Food’s Indigenous Landholder Service (ILS). The Indigenous Landholder Service, co-funded by the department and the ILC, worked with the Mallard family on many aspects of the business, including strategic and farm planning, governance, finance and technical input. This allowed them to present a robust business plan based on a sharefarming cropping arrangement with a neighbouring farming family.

It’s been a nail-biting season for the family with decent rainfalls few and far between. “We’ve had 76mm of rain for the growing season,” Mr Mallard said. “Once, that would have been considered a drought year but technologies they use these days, like GPS, have helped.”

Mt View is one of 70 indigenous properties across the State supported by the ILS. The department’s ILS manager Mark Chmielewski began working with the family six years ago.

“The Mallard family have a proud history in the WA agricultural industry extending back generations with the relevant skills, knowledge and drive to achieve in farming,” Mr Chmielewski said.

“It is extremely pleasing to see the family now has an opportunity to farm for themselves. The cropping program this year has been planned and talked about for a few years and despite the tough season, it’s great to see the first harvest take place.”

William’s father Bill has a strong history with other farming families in the region and the Mallard family are appreciative of the support received from neighbouring farmers.

“The greatest assistance we have received is from Mark Chmielewski and Bob Vinson through the ILS,” Mr Mallard said. “Without their mentoring, we would not be where we are now.”

It hasn’t been a bumper season, yet this years 300 hectare crop, though small, looks set to pay off.

“We’ve got 2500 hectares of arable land and we are hoping to expand the cropping program. While it’s been a stressful year, it’s been enlightening. We can see where we are heading to provide a good future for the next generations” Mr Mallard said.

Pictured above: Bill and William Mallard, of Mt View Station, with Bob Vinson (centre), from the Department of Agriculture and Food’s Indigenous Landholder Service

Some background information:

- The Department of Agriculture and Food’s Indigenous Landholder Service (ILS), in partnership with the Indigenous Land Corporation, is improving the capacity of almost 5000 people, on 70 properties, spanning more than five million hectares across WA.

- The ILS has been recognised by the United Nations for Government agency leadership in establishing a fully integrated, long-term strategy that considered the economic, environmental, social and cultural sustainability of indigenous people.

Thanks to Bob Vinson for sharing this story with RIG News. Text extracts and image courtesy of the Government of Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Food (29/10/12).

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