THIS SWEEPING PANORAMA, taken on the cracking clay plains of Mittiebah Station in the Northern Territory, could be a scene from the 1946 film The Overlanders. This film painted such a powerful picture of the romance of the outback that it changed the life of David Joseland, who’s in the centre of this photo (standing).
When David became an orphan aged six, he became the youngest ever boarder at Cranbrook, an exclusive Sydney private school. In the holidays, he often stayed to help out at historic Belltrees, a cattle station in the Hunter Valley, and several other properties. This sparked his love of the bush, but seeing The Overlanders cemented his desire to spend his life in the cattle country of the NT.
Commissioned by the Australian government’s World War II propaganda unit to promote our domestic contribution to the war effort, the film was based on true stories and told of the heroic exploits of cattle graziers who moved vast herds south and east across the continent, away from the Japanese foe bearing down on the northern border. The film starred much-loved Aussie actor Chips Rafferty, regarded by some as the Gary Cooper of Australia, in the lead role. It was a rollicking adventure story that idealised the droving life, made heroes of its true blue cattle folk and showcased the Australian outback.
“After seeing The Overlanders, Dad’s dream was to meet my mother [Helen Grieve, the young star of The Overlanders, whom he did eventually marry], work on the land and have that rural life,” says David’s daughter Janie Joseland-Bennett, who appears fifth from left in the photo. And he fulfilled that dream. On leaving school, David became a jackaroo on properties around the NT, before co-purchasing the lease to Everard Park Station, a cattle-run in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands of South Australia, where he settled, married and raised his children. In the 1970s, following some tough drought years, David headed north and leased Mittiebah Station, more than 4000sq.km of prime cattle country on the Barkly Tablelands. After nearly 20 years there as one of Australia’s leading beef producers, David moved to a property near Tumut in New South Wales, where he lived until his death in 2015.
Photographer Grenville Turner captured the final day of the Joseland family’s last cattle muster on Mittiebah in 1988, before the new leaseholders took over. David stands proudly at the front of his droving team that includes three of his children, Janie, Tim and Will, his head stockman, Peter Parlow, and his regular droving crew. ■