A remote Indigenous community in the Gulf of Carpentaria has made moves to control its horse population in order to improve the employment prospects of its young people.
- Hundreds of horses have bred on the remote Indigenous community of Mornington Island
- The horses have been transported across the Gulf of Carpentaria for various reasons over the past two decades
- The community hopes to establish a cattle station on the island
Hundreds of horses have bred on Mornington Island over the past two decades, after being transported across the gulf waters for various reasons.
The community is one of the most remote in Australia, and finding employment for residents has always been a challenge.
Horseman Davin Lorraine said the end goal was to start a cattle station on the island and teach young people the skills needed to work in the industry.
“I’ve spent 18 years in the cattle industry and my love for horses never stopped,” Mr Lorraine said.
In the past month, Mr Lorraine and fellow horsemen Brendan Retchford, Lawrence Burke and Victor Godfrey have been building yards, fencing paddocks and rounding the horses up.
He said the main priority was to control the population.
“At the moment we’ve built a temporary paddock just to get them out of town, where we just feed and water them every day,” Mr Lorraine said.
“If I can make a trap yard then I can see how many horses we do have on the island.”
Safety risk for community
David Barnes from the Mornington Shire Council, which has funded the project alongside the state government, said the horses were creating a safety risk for the community.
“That was our initial impetus.”
Cr Barnes said the program grew and became a way to create better employment prospects for the community, which has traditionally had issues with employment.
“It is really something to see for young people who may have had some difficulty with the school system,” he said.
Promoting responsible ownership
Veterinarian Hannah Burton has been helping Mornington Island control the horse population by providing medical assistance.
Ms Burton said having Mr Lorraine and the team working the horses in the community was essential to keeping the population healthy.
“Horses don’t really appreciate that so it’s been a really big concerted effort from the community and from the council to get to this point.”
Ms Burton said she was working with the council to write guidelines for the ownership of horses.
“Our long-term goal is that every stallion on the island over the age of one will be desexed,” she said.
“If someone wants a stallion for breeding purposes they’ll have to actually keep it in a designated area and prove that they can care for it.
“We’re looking for that responsible pet ownership.”