Roo shooter Peter in Carnarvon WA
Karl Brandenberg, Carnarvon’s Shire President, dobbed his mate Peter in as a local, colourful character I ought to photograph.
Karl told me that Peter was the roo shooter for the district for years. “He’s a laugh a minute…and tough. Cheeky as they bloody come.”
With that, I knew I had to meet Peter. I caught up with him and his wife Joan at their home a few days ago.
As a boy, Peter loved being out mustering with his dad who worked on stations, sleeping under the stars at the cattle camps. While a great way to grow up, this was not conducive to being a diligent student and he was sent off to boarding school.
Leaving school in 1954, Peter couldn’t wait to get back to doing what he’d loved as a kid, and got a job a Brick House Station, just north of Carnarvon in WA.
“I started as a station hand and ended up as an overseer, running the mustering camp, and handling all the stock.”
In 1963, Peter married Joan, a former Miss Carnarvon, and the newly weds moved from the quarters near the main homestead at Brick House Station to Square Tank, an outstation, where Peter looked after 9000 breeding ewes.
“I started roo shooting at weekends and went professional shooting in ’65. I could make better money roo shooting but from time to time I looked after stations while owners went on holiday.”
In those days roo shooters were paid by the ton, weighed after the head, limbs and tail had been cut off, “roughly 45-60 roos a ton”.
A while later Peter started up Carnarvon Pet Pack, preparing and selling pet food.
“Local Aboriginals and white people also bought the meat for themselves which led to quite a few run-ins with the local health inspector. I got taken to court because they said the meat was too clean and obviously meant for human consumption. Once I was fined $243 - I remember that because I used a 243 rifle at the time.”
Peter showed me around his yard, sharing stories all the way, with his spotlight-adorned roo shooting vehicle, his old yellow-painted shop and the space where he used to prepare the roo meat. He has a fine collection of Found Stuff from his days out in the middle of nowhere, from Aboriginal grindstones to a well-preserved leather saddlebag once used by a stockman.
In more recent times, Peter and Joan, now aged 82 and 77, have been dealing with Joan’s dementia diagnosis. “It’s something you have to live with. The last two years it’s been rushing on.” Clearly their shared sense of humour and readiness to laugh is helping them through.
When I made the call to Peter about a possible photo shoot he’d said “You’ll be disappointed.” Peter, I can assure you I wasn’t :-) And getting to photograph and chat to Joan too was the coconut on the lamington.