Vale Bill Hughes

Jon Condon, 07/11/2012


Bill HughesOne of northern Australia’s pastoral industry legends who made a strong contribution to the region across half a century passed away on Sunday, aged 90.

George Lucas (Bill) Hughes was widely known and respected across northern Australia, both for his work within the Stanbroke Pastoral Company – at one point the largest beef producer in the world – and through his private pastoral and community interests.

Bill was reared on Nockatunga Station in the Channel Country, then owned by the Adelaide-based branch of the Hughes family.

He went on to manage Nockatunga for 13 years after his father retired.

He will perhaps be best remembered for his 16-year term working with Stanbroke Pastoral Co. As senior pastoral inspector, he had direct responsibility for Stanbroke’s operational management, working in close collaboration with Melbourne, and later Brisbane-based managing directors, Jim (later Sir James) Balderstone, and Bill Norton.  

His era with Stanbroke coincided with a period of major expansion, and increasing sophistication within the company’s operations.

After his appointment as senior pastoral inspector in 1969, Bill was based firstly at Beresford, near Clermont, followed by a term at nearby Frankfield, before moving to Fort Constantine near Cloncurry, in Queensland’s northwest, where he spent most of his career.  

Few people have contributed as much in recent history towards the advancement of the northern cattle industry across such a wide range of issues, from BTEC disease management to pasture improvement and approaches to the formidable challenges in extensive cattle enterprise management.

A quietly-spoken, even-tempered gentleman, Bill had tremendous knowledge and experience of cattle and country. He was able to analyse difficult situations where decisions were required, such as when to move stock in deteriorating seasonal conditions. This was a source of great comfort particularly to the younger managers he supervised and to the company overall.

After retiring from Stanbroke in 1985, Bill focused his energies on developing the family’s Koolatah Pastoral Co, run in collaboration with his brothers. At one stage, the company owned Dixie, Koolatah, Drumduff and Highbury in the lower Cape York peninsula region, plus Alni and Banchory near Clermont.

One of Bill’s sons Philip, managed Banchory, Augustus Downs and Bulloo Downs for Stanbroke for 11 years. The Hughes family bought Banchory from Stanbroke in 1985, as part of a property rationalisation after Stanbroke bought other properties from CSR.

Bill also spent many years as a specialist advisor to the indigenous community owned Morr Morr Pastoral Co, guiding the management of Delta Downs in the Gulf into a successful beef cattle enterprise.

A strongly community-minded person, he served for 25 years as a local councillor on the Bulloo and Cloncurry Shires. He was also the inaugural president of the Cloncurry Show Society, and a life member of the Central & Northern Graziers Association.

Bill will be fondly remembered as a persuasive diplomat who commanded respect across all levels of the Stanbroke company, and the broader grazing industry community. A highly principled man, with incorruptible integrity, he had a positive influence on many people during his time in the saddle.

He is survived by his sons, David and Philip, daughters Pam and Wendy, and their families.  

  • A service will be held on Tuesday November 13 at 10am at St Thomas’s Anglican Church, Lawrence Street, North Ipswich.



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  1. Giles loder, 23/04/2024

    Thanks Bill for your trust and encouragement in the period of time I served under you , true gent cattle man and bushman ,was a great period of time spent with this man and his grand wife,thank you sir Regards to all the family Rest well

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