Engaging communities in Sustainable Landscape Management
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Calperum Station 1838 - 2010

The Calperum Homestead complex is situated on one of the oldest historical sites in the Riverland, and the site was formerly known as Ral Ral. As early as 1838 European drovers bringing livestock into South Australia used Ral Ral as a watering point and camping place. In 1849, as a result of attacks made by aborigines on overland parties bringing stock into NSW the Government decided to build a Police Station at Ral Ral. The partly built station was flooded and consequently abandoned.

In the early 1860's Ral Ral became a mail change station where passengers relaxed and coach horses were changed for fresh ones. About this time William Perkins kept a grog shanty at Ral Ral. In 1865 the Government of the day created a one square mile reserve at Ral Ral for the establishment of an accommodation house with a general liquor license and William Perkins became the first licensee,  holding the license until John Coombs took over in 1878. But by 1884 the Ral Ral Hotel had closed down.

Sheep and cattle men occupied the Calperum area from about 1846 under an annual license and in 1851, 14 year Pastoral Leases were  issued, with the first pastoral lease  issued to Albermarle Cator. This lease covered an area from Spring Cart Gully (upstream from Berri) along the river to the eastern border of the colony. The property became known as Chowilla, then Chowilla-Bookmark. In 1896 the property was divided into separate properties: Chowilla and Calperum.
From 1896 John Holland Robertson held the Calperum lease until his death in 1909, the property remained in the family and was run by Robertson's wife and daughters up to the death of the last daughter in 1953. Colin Watson and Howard Martin co-leased the property until Watson was bought out and then Howard transferred the lease to his sons - Brenton, Eric and Chester. In 1979 Chester purchased his brothers property shares and then sold in 1981 to Ken McNaughton.

In 1993 the lease was sold to the Federal Government and together the Australian National Parks and Wildlife implemented the Biosphere Reserve Program. The Australian Landscape Trust and the community  in partnership were contracted to manage Calperum Station for the Federal Government.

Historic Yubalia Outstation

The history of Yubalia is locked into the progress of the pastoral industry. From 1872 John Scadding held pastoral claims over the land which covered the area later called Yubalia.  In 1875 the lease transferred to W.H. Ayliffe, but Scadding regained it in 1876.  In terms of residence at Yubalia and the erection and construction of buildings, W.T. Ford, overseer, is listed as living at the run in 1887 in connection with the partnership who were running it.  He and others purchased the lease in 1882.  The Radford family held Yubalia, in various lease numbers, from 1910 until 1966, at which point it became part of Calperum. Much of the historical information about Yubalia has been gained from Mr. David Radford.

Most of the structures comprising the Yubalia Historic Area were constructed in the early 1880’s and remain evident today.  The complex includes the Hut, the Dugout, Lime Pit, W.C., Smithy, Shearing Shed and Horse Yard, Well and Desalination Plant, three dams and associated fencing. An additional structure (the domestic horse yard) was erected in the 1930’s.  The Hut and other principal structures are situated on a low east-west ridge with sparse mallee vegetation.  The structures are a rare example of traditional bush construction methods using local materials, and they are representative of a way of life and the hardships encountered by settlers of modest means on relatively small holdings in the remote marginal country in the state's north east. 

The wide shallow water catchment swale, running to the north of the hut suggested the exact location for the tiny settlement far from Adelaide.  Evidence has generally suggested that the site was not occupied on a permanent basis.  There is accommodation for only a few people and no apparent sign of more permanent residency such as a garden, fencing, stone edging or introduced species.  The scarcity of water would have been a severe limitation.

The Dugout is a single roomed building constructed primarily below ground, with timber slab walls, a stone gable wall (aiding insulation) at the south-western end and a pitched roof formed of timber rounds, pug filled and earth covered.  Steps at the north eastern end lead down into the building.  Beyond the steps, to the north-east of the building was a “bough shed” for hanging freshly killed meat which would later be moved into the cellar (suggestion from memory by Mr Radford).  The timber roof slabs over hung the wall slabs to shed any roof water.  On the inside there was a low work bench for keeping stores and food off the damp floor, and a number of shelves and pigeon-holes for stores along the western wall.  The small cupboard on the south-western wall was used by Mr Radford to keep station records and paper work.

In 1996 work began on conserving the historical area with much of that work carried out by members of the Riverland 4WD Club.