I love it when I come upon properties that are still in the hands of their original owners, stations that have been passed down from one generation to the next, kept alive and preserved so they can continue to share their captivating tales of dedication, love and toil.
Bungaree Station in South Australia is one such property. Its buildings, memorabilia and artefacts tell the story of its prosperous wool-growing legacy. The land showcases more than 175 years of pastoral history, acting as a looking glass into Australia’s rural past. The fact that the property is so well preserved makes it one of our countries most iconic sheep stations, so it’s no surprise that it was placed on the South Australian Heritage Register.
The property has witnessed many changes over the decades. A modern-day transformation includes part of the property being re-purposed with a heritage guesthouse that runs day tours and operates as a function venue.
Bungaree Station is still a working farm. The 4th and 5th generation of the Hawker family still operate the mixed farm which is located in the picturesque Clare Valley. Bungaree Station is 140km north of Adelaide, in the mid-north farming country of South Australia where sheep, wheat and flourishing wineries are a common sight. It’s an area rich in diverse commodities as well as history.
Originally built in 1841 by George Charles Hawker and his brothers, Charles and James, London born George C Hawker was only 23 years old when he came across the Bungaree property. The brothers began their pastoral enterprise with around 2,000 ewes running them on the then 80,000-acre property. Selected for its plentiful supply of good drinking water, it was already called ‘Bungaree’, its original Aboriginal name.
As Bungaree grew in size it became a bustling centre. Resembling a small town its clutch of buildings included a homestead, shearing shed, stables, office, swagman’s hut, store, residential houses, council chambers, staff cottages, gatehouse and even a church. By the 1880s, the holding ran around 100,000 Merino sheep, a substantial property for the time by any measure.
Over the years Bungaree Station has been maintained by members of the Hawker family, lovingly preserved and looked after as a lasting reminder of the European settlement in the area and the broad tapestry of events that make up our rural past.