Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


Bungaree's brave new world

Story Nigel Austin
Photos Leon Mead

ImageSal Hawker sometimes feels trapped like a prisoner on beautiful Bungaree station in South Australia's Clare Valley. Invariably, it is at busy times when she doesn't leave the property, seemingly for months on end.

Her life providing a first-class tourism service becomes so all-consuming that she even battles to know what is happening in the outside world. The unrelenting work is in contrast to the life she envisaged when she moved from South Africa to marry fourth generation land-owner George Hawker in 1973.

Based on what her mother did on their farm in South Africa she had expected to be a traditional farmer's wife. "I couldn't boil an egg when we married, I was a spoilt South African," she recalls. "I never imagined I would end-up running an accommodation business and catering for thousands of visitors. But I've adapted - you often do when you're young." When Sal arrived at the historic sheep station, she initially taught at Clare High School, but two and a half years later she agreed to 'come home' to Bungaree - provided she had a dog, a motor bike and a job. Soon she was busy doing stock work and the books.

Then she started a family. But despite being a 'spoilt South African' everyone noticed she had one gear - fast-forward. So much so that she was soon nicknamed 'energy'. Her ability to absorb long hours of work and her enthusiasm are traits anyone visiting Bungaree soon notices. Her day starts at 5.30am when she usually goes for a 5km jog around the station's hills and valleys. "It's the best time of the day," she says. It's my sanity time, before the phone starts ringing. I'm conscious that time is so short. If you spend your time walking you won't achieve as much."

ImageAt the other end of the day when the phone stops, the quiet offers the best time to work. Sometimes she works till 2.30am or later. Typical of her energy are the trips to Adelaide with George when she often sits in the car typing letters because she considers it a waste of time to sit and do nothing. Her remarkable energy and enthusiasm have been instrumental in the development of a major tourism business on the 2600ha Bungaree.

It started in 1986 when Sal and George moved into the main homestead and with their three children at school, Sal found herself with time on her hands for the first time for a decade.

"Bungaree always had an informal tourism business because of its place in South Australia's pastoral history," Sal explains. "People with a link to the property were keen to see where they or their ancestors worked in earlier years. So, long before the property was formally opened to the public I was constantly showing people around and I began to get embarrassed by the condition of the buildings. The tourism venture was initially regarded as a joke. I remember suggesting that tourism would one day make more money than wool." Story end

Full story: Issue 16, April/ May 2001

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