Making a living off the land
Opening up the land
Whitewells Station plan
Leases
Beekeepers
Sandalwood
Eucalyptus oil
Pastoralism
Shepherds to sheep stations
Fencing the hay paddock
Making hay
Mining
Tourism
Vermin
Wells

Sandalwood

The grey, gaunt and gnarly form of the shrubby sandalwood tree, common on Charles Darwin Reserve, belies the much sought after exotic fragrance of its wood and roots.

 

We call the sandalwood tree ‘waladar’ in Badimia. I used to feel sorry for it when we pulled it. It’s a  shame, some of them are quite nice trees when they’re growing in a water course and they’re thick. Wayne Fogarty 11 March 2007 interview by C.Nicholson

The Western Australian sandalwood tree Santalum spicatum is common in the woodlands and hills of the Lake Moore – Mongers Lake area despite more than a century of harvesting.  Seedlings and young plants are few, however, because sheep, goats and rabbits eat them, and the small native animals such as the burrowing bettong (or Boodie) Bettongia lesueuer which used to bury the nuts and aid their germination are no longer present.  Sandalwood is a root parasite, favouring wattles such as the jam wattle Acacia acuminata as a host tree, and is very slow growing. The Forests Products Commission awards the harvesting contracts.  It administers strict controls over the 'pulling' of trees, which are taken, roots and all.  Pullers are required to replant nuts under a host to replace live plants they pull.

The sandalwood nut is highly regarded as Aboriginal ‘bush medicine’ and was quickly adapted by the white newcomers:

'The old timers always carried sandalwood nuts in a tobacco tin for medicinal purposes to quickly cure urinary scalding or “devilled kidneys” which resulted from drinking the highly mineralised waters'. Day and Morrissey 1995 Drawn to Mt Magnet.

Sandalwood harvesting became a major industry in the early days of the colony of Western Australia . It was first burnt when land was cleared for farming east of the Darling Range in what is now the Wheatbelt. The sandalwood trees were first collected in 1845 and exported to the Far East.

Boom and bust have characterised the industry since. More recently, sandalwood has been planted on Wheatbelt farms for land conservation, and its use as a high quality oil for high temperature cooking is being researched.

 About the time the first pastoral leases were settled in the early 1870s in the Mongers Lake to Lake Moore area, the sandalwood industry in India declined. Harvesting in Western Australia increased and most of the accessible wood in the farming areas had been cleared by the late 1880s.

The fact that the sandalwood industry relied on horse or bullock wagons or drays to cart the logs, it is unlikely that sandalwood harvesting occurred in the Charles Darwin Reserve area until the original tracks had been upgraded sufficiently and internal station tracks were opened. The upgrading of tracks was done mostly to cart the wool from the pastoral leases in the Monger-Moore area.

Wayne Fogarty, a Badimia from the area, was a sandalwood puller, following in his father’s footsteps. He pulled sandalwood on Whitewells Station in 1985 and 1986,  'first camp just south of the homestead. We could hear the lighting plant. Then in the gimlet country along the south fence. Dad had a sandalwood contract for about 20 year. We went to Ninghan, Kadji Kadji, Mellanbye, Wagga Wagga, Bunnawarra, then cut down the emu fence to Whitewells.  We all had an axe. If we broke the wooden handle we got an iron handle  - it used to jar a bit.' Wayne Fogarty 11th March 2007 interview by C.Nicholson

 

Sandalwood pullers camped out for a month or so at a time, living rough in the bush. In the 1920s ' David Cain was a sandalwood cutter working on outback stations. He  would call in at Jibberding every three to four weeks to collect his mail.' Bert Cail 2005, Prepared to Pioneer – A history of Wubin 1908 -  1939

 

The late Cecil Fogarty’s sandalwood collecting licence for 1980, issued by the Conservator of Forests, pasted into its small hardcover booklet.


 

A 14-ton semi-trailer load of de-barked and trimmed sandalwood pulled on Kadji Kadji Station about 60 km to the north-west of Charles Darwin Reserve, by Cecil Fogarty with his son Wayne and team, early 1980s.

Photo courtesy Wayne Fogarty

Hugh Barnes, who has lived in the region since 1938 as mailman, carter, prospector, miner, farmer and now hostelier, had a sandalwood licence. He pulled on Mt Gibson, Ninghan and Mouroubra Stations. Sandalwood was carted into Wubin and shipped to the port at Fremantle by train:

The sandalwood was stockpiled at the Four-Mile out of Wubin. Somebody set fire to the heap, it was early in the War [WWII], there was no market. Everyone suspected it was an insurance job” Hugh Barnes, 2006, interview by C.Nicholson.

 
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