Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


Kerry McGinnisNew tracks for the Bush Tucker Man

Les Hiddins' latest mission is off-camera and close to his heart – establishing a retreat for veterans in Queensland's Cape York.

Story and photos John Denman

It's been quite a few years since the last ABC TV series of Bush Tucker Man went to air and Les Hiddins, the affable army major who fronted the cameras, has taken off on a different track. As a young private soldier with the Australian Army, Les served in Vietnam. He did two tours of duty between 1966 and 1969, the first as a forward scout, a tough job in the infantry. Now well into his 50s, the effects of those years have taken their toll. "Just about everyone who went over there's got some sort of a problem," say Les. "In the Second World War they called it shell shock."

Kerry McGinnisThe observation of widespread health problems among Vietnam veterans led Les to come up with the idea of a veterans' retreat – a tropical sanctuary where veterans of all Australian conflicts can come to relax in the bush, free of the ubiquitous regulations imposed by faraway bureaucracies. The place Les chose is an 80,000-hectare parcel of Normandy River frontage on "Kalpowar", a disused cattle station in Cooktown shire adjoining Lakefield National Park. "The bit we're after is called the Green Ant Block," says Les. "It used to be a soldier settler block, so we reckon that's appropriate." With a group of Queensland ex-servicemen, Les has taken the fight all the way to parliament house in Brisbane. Story end

Full story Issue 33, Feb/Mar 2004

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