Phoebe Farrar

Phoebe Elizabeth Farrar (1869-1960), stockwoman, was born at Albury, New South Wales, daughter of Martha and Henry Wright. In her late teens she accompanied the Farrar family on their great treks which spread cattle and horses across vast tracts of north-western New South Wales, western Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Jack Farrar was an experienced and valued stockman who worked for John Costello and his brother-in-law Patsy Durack. From Bourke in the 1860s, the families began a serial occupation of land, leasing stations which they stocked and sold, moving on with sufficient cattle and horses to meet leasing conditions on the next expanse of unclaimed land. In the early 1870s Costello held 3.5 ha in the Cooper's Creek-Diamantina River region. Ten years later he had established stations in the Gulf area of the Northern Territory, but in 1890 he was forced to retreat to his 'Lake Nash' property in the face of drought and a drying up of investors' interest in marginal country. The Farrars were left to manage his 'Valley of Springs' station in the Territory, as to retain the leasehold, residency requirements had to be met. Conditions were extremely harsh.

Phoebe Wright married Farrar's son Bob in Palmerston (Darwin) on 30 August 1904. Their first child Henry was born at 'Nutwood Downs' station in 1901. Another son and two daughters were born but one of the girls died. Bob and Phoebe worked on various properties and were among the few Europeans who settled into isolated station life. Phoebe was a competent stockwoman, like many Aboriginal women then working on cattle properties. A skilled horsewoman, she broke horses, tailed cattle in wild scrub country, worked on musters and on all of the arduous jobs involved in stock work under the trying conditions of Australia's final cattle frontier.

Phoebe Farrar was still working in her seventies when a fall from a horse left her with a broken hip. This repaired, she returned to work until again hospitalised, aged 86. She died in Darwin Hospital on 19 August 1960, her occupation listed as 'housewife'. Like many of the pioneer women of remote Australia her life and work have no memorial in any hall of fame, her other activities swept over in the historical record by the word 'housewife'.

Lenore Coltheart