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Community & Business

4 March, 2022

Last soldier settler family leaves Berida

The last soldier settler family of a station known as ‘Berida’ in the Collie district, has recently sold their property.

By Emily Middleton

Last century after the world wars, the government had ballots to draw names of returned soldiers who would take designated settler blocks. ‘Berida’, a big station originally owned by an English company before being bought by the government, situated just outside of Gilgandra towards Collie, was split into settlers blocks in 1950.

Arthur (Bill) Border was one of the lucky winners of these settlers’ blocks. His son Bryan Border, along with wife Lyn, have only just sold the property ‘Wilgaroo’. While this may be an end to an era in Berida, reflection on the property and its history has proven significant.

Bill’s youngest son, Stuart Border, recalls his father telling him the story of when he found out he had received the settlers’ block.

“When he came out of the ballot he told his dad, I won the lottery! Well, I didn’t really, I’ve drawn a block, and his dad said to him that’s going to be worth more than the lottery to you son, and he was pretty right. “He started a family business that then started three other families.”

A total of 1194 applications were received for the 25 settler blocks, 123 which were disallowed, and 42 received after the closing date.

The successful applicants, according to the Daily Liberal published on April 15, 1950, were: Hilton T Baker, Timothy M Binney, H J Brentley, W M Bromley, Arthur Brown, Arthur Border, William James Boyd, G C Carmichael, Bruce E Cattrell, Victor William Chaffer, Douglas J N Fraser, Mark Goodwin, Eric C Harnett, Keith E Hall, A G Henman, Robert M Kerr, Terence M Moore, David J Miller, Alfred W Nancarrow, Claude William Nelson, Donald E Riley, Leslie F Shearer, Fredrick J Smithby, Victor F Tunney, and Alan F Wise.

“We are the last family to who still had any ownership of the original solider settlers’ block,” said Bryan.

Bill, his wife, Olive, and four-year-old son, Graham, arrived at the property Wilgaroo in May 1950. The property was dominated with wilga trees and kangaroos on arrival, hence the chosen name. When they initially arrived, the property boundary was set and nothing else. Stuart recalls being told that when they first got there, Olive sat on a log and cried, and the little family lived in a tent for the first month while the first dwelling was built.

“They received a loan of 2000 pounds to build the first house, a three-bedroom home,” said Bryan.

“It was originally 2000 acres, until we bought another 1300 acres after that, essentially buying out a neighbouring property.” Stuart explained that the settler blocks were called closer settler lease (CSL) blocks.

“You paid a lease fee each year, until we got to about the late 70s and the government offered to buy the lease out, so to speak. I don’t think everyone did, but dad did, so he then owned freehold land. “It’s obviously more attractive to sell because you could sell it as a lease holder, but the person who buys it would have to continue to pay the rent on that lease to the government.

“They were sneaking up too, they were getting a bit higher all the time,” said Stuart.

The Border brothers have always been extremely grateful for their upbringing, as they reflected on what it was like to grow up on their farm.

“It was a wonderful life, growing up on a farm in our era, so machinery orientated and bigger and automated and computerised,” said Stuart. “We just had sheep when dad first started,” said Bryan.

“We didn’t get machinery until the late 50s, and it wasn’t until the 60s before he really started farming.” The seasons were great when the Border’s first moved to Wilgaroo, with wool at record prices.

“Wool was amazing back in the 50s, that’s why it was such an opportunity. These settler blocks were an amazing thing to do, it gave them a start in life,” said Stuart.

The settler families all created life-long friendships with each other. Without Berida, and other settlers’ blocks, there is a wonder as to what might have happened to the community we are in now.

“We could definitely learn from it,” said Stuart.

“I don’t know what governments could do now, but so many of our soldiers come back and just can’t fit back into society, a lot of PTSD and mental health issues, it was just such a great thing to hand them an opportunity like this.”

“There’s a lot of them, this is just one small one, they’re all over the place. There’s at least four out here,” said Bryan.

Stuart believes that these settlers blocks may have been a way of growing western communities.

“There would have been one family and farm workers on Berida, and then all of a sudden there was 20.

“I think it was more a real decentralisation type push to get people out into this vast country of ours, push them out of Sydney, over the mountains, and starting communities, towns, and cities out here. It’s worked so well, it really has.”

Bryan and Lyn Border decided to sell Wilgaroo as there was no one to take over the property from them.

“None of our children were going to come home and take over. We would have liked our son to come back but it just didn’t happen. He is an agronomist by training, and the country in Wilgaroo would have required a mix of sheep as well as farming,” said Bryan.

While the Border’s are the last settler family at Berida, there are numerous other settler blocks throughout the district that were drawn at different times over the years.

If your family is on an original settlers’ block, contact The Gilgandra Weekly, and we can delve more into the history of the region.

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