Vale Colin Brett

James Nason, 23/05/2023

Outpourings of condolences are flowing across northern Australia today following the loss of respected Northern Territory cattleman Colin Brett who passed away yesterday, aged 83.

Allison and Colin Brett. Picture: Brett Cattle Company

People won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel, a popular saying goes, one that seems particularly apt today. The smiling face of Colin Brett and the uplifting presence he emanated left a lasting mark on all who knew him.

A true gentleman, eternally optimistic and positive, a smile that energised everyone he met, and importantly gave strength to others, even in the darkest of times, are among the many of Mr Brett’s characteristics being remembered today.

Mr Brett and his wife Alison experienced the agony of enormous loss, losing son Dougal in a helicopter accident in 2015.

Their property Waterloo Station was also front and centre of the fallout of the Federal Government’s ill-considered, and later proven to be illegal, decision to suddenly halt the live cattle trade to Indonesia just as the northern export season was reaching full swing in June 2011.

The decision “cut the industry off at the knees”, Mr Brett told Beef Central at the time.

“We can’t understand why the Government has done this to us, there are no other outlets other than the store market and this is a great trade for both countries,” he said.

“It employs a lot of people in Indonesia and it is a protein source for them.

“It is something our country gains from and they gain from, we have a great relationship with them, but I don’t know what they think of us now.”

After owning properties in New South Wales and Queensland, Colin and Alison Brett and their sons Dougal and Hamish and their families bought the 243,000ha Waterloo Station, in the Victoria River District in 2004 before adding the 171,000ha Willeroo Station, 116km from Katherine, bought from Gina Rinehart, in 2021.

With Alison, Mr Brett took a great interest in industry affairs and regularly attended cattle events including the Ekka and Beef Australia expos.

The impact of his loss on his many friends is being reflected in accumulating online tributes on social media.

Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association CEO Will Evans has assembled the below tributes from across the industry which help to convey the warmth and esteem in which Mr Brett was widely held:

“When we had to get out of the trenches – the Brett Family were the first ones over the top” said Tom Stockwell of Sunday Creek Station and President of NTCA during the beginning days of the Brett Cattle Case class action. “Colin will be fondly remembered and sadly missed.”

Luke Bowen, Cattle Australia CEO, and was also CEO of the NTCA during the 2011 live export ban, passed on his condolences to the family, “Colin was a man who exuded positivity and support for our industry, our people and those doing it tough. Through the most difficult times for his family, with industry and community in crisis, his quiet strength and care gave hope and resolve to go on gave all of us the strength to fight back.”

“A remarkable man and a true gentleman. For an unwavering, beautiful lifetime, he and Alison were inseparable partners. Our heartfelt sympathies and prayers go out to you and your family. Our industry will never forget.”

Adam Giles, CEO Hancock Agriculture and Kidman and Co, who was the Northern Territory Chief Minister when the class action was launched in 2014, offered similar comments, “In the wake of 2011 the Brett Family took up the fight not just for the pastoral industry but people from all walks of life from across the Territory. Their contribution has been enormous and will be long remembered. Colin was a true gentleman of the north and his loss will be felt by many. My thoughts are will his family today and I send my condolences to them all.”

Ian McBean of Bonalbo Station and Life Member of the NTCA recalled meeting Colin and his family when they first came to the Territory, “I was sorry to hear of the passing of Colin Brett. He was a well-known cattleman from in the VRD region for many years. I was fortunate to meet Colin and his member as members of the NTCA and throughout his involvement in industry. His contribution to the live cattle ban class action was invaluable.”

Tracey Hayes, Chair of the Federation Board for the Royal Flying Doctor’s Service, former CEO of the NTCA and class action co-ordinator for the Brett Cattle Case spoke to Colin’s commitment to his family, “Colin and Alison have had much to be proud of in their lives together and their accomplishments are plane for anyone to see. But it was their partnership together that will stay with me most. They were a true match for one another and gave each other great strength. I know how tough this will be for the family and I offer them my condolences”.

Terry Underwood OAM, life Member of the NTCA, reflected on Colin’s strength in coming to the Territory and building Waterloo Station to what it is today, “Colin was of the old brigade. He and his family worked hard to own and manage one of the few remaining privately owned cattle stations, amidst the ever-expanding corporate giants and landowners.”

“The Brett Family, with Colin at the helm, took on the Australian Government as leaders of in the Class Action against the live export suspension in 2011. Their fearlessness and truth stood our industry in good sted. Their victory was a win for all of us. My family and I attended the funeral of Dougal Brett, Colin’s son, in Kununurra on 24th June 2015. We send love, support and understanding to the Brett Family as Father and Son reunite.”

“Our gratitude and respect for Colin is immeasurable.”

Colin’s contribution to the industry extends far beyond his time in the Territory. Prior to purchasing Waterloo in 2004, the family had properties in Queensland and New South Wales. Throughout his life, Colin was a proud supporter of the Sydney Royal Easter Show. Rob Vickery, of Bective Station Tamworth and President of the Sydney Royal Easter Show (2004-2009) knew Col for more than 50 years. “I want to offer my sincere condolences to the Brett family today. Colin had a long and proud association with the RAS Cattle Show for many years and was a great supporter of people and his district. He will be sadly missed.”

Alastair Rayner, Sydney Royal Easter Show Councillor, Beef Genetics Consultant, and former NSW DPI Beef Cattle Officer remembered Col as always being incredibly gracious and very practical – and never shy in arguing for what he believed was right. “Col started as an NSW DPI Beef Cattle Officer in the mid 1960’s working at both Trangie and Cowra, but regularly locked horns with the bureaucrats in the public service with his continual drive for practical solutions for beef producers. Col was part of the team that developed the beefeconomics program that is still used today.”

“I remember Col stewarding and judging cattle at the Sydney show for many years, even after he’d left his farm and moved North. Each year he’d make the long trip from North Queensland, and later from the Territory, to come to the show. Col was always interested in the development of young people and his legacy has had a lasting impact on many.”

Garry Edwards, Managing Director of AAM Investment Group, which has a number of stations in the Territory, also knew Col from his time with the RAS. “I first met Colin when he was a councillor for the RAS Cattle Show. The encouragement he provided to young people, including myself, to get started in the industry has had an enormous impact on many. He was always very generous with his time and encouraging with his words. What he was willing to offer others is the best demonstration of the character of the man I can think of.”

Jason Strong, Managing Director for Meat and Livestock Australia, has equally fond memories of Colin Brett as a young member of the industry,  “Colin made you feel like he was always glad to see you and never seemed too busy to have a yarn.  From the first time I met him, at Sydney Show more than 30 years ago, to the last time I saw him in Darwin he was one of those champion people who always made you feel better for seeing him.  As well as the impressive family business he built, he was available for others and gave his time to support and encourage the industry.  We will miss him and could all benefit from being a bit more like Col.”

Troy Setter, CEO of Consolidated Pastoral Company and Chair of LiveCorp, reflected on how Col had set such a strong example to those young people. “It is simply incredible how Col started with a small block in NSW and traded properties throughout his life, culminating with he and his family owning one of the largest stations in Northern Australia.”

“Col’s strength in the wake of what happened in 2011 was incredible. He did not hesitate to join the fight to hold the Federal Government to account for their actions. Even after losing his son Dougal in a helicopter crash in 2015, Col never wavered in his passionate support for the beef industry.”

During his time in Queensland Colin became a valued member and supporter of the Brahman Breeders Association. Matthew McCamley of Lancefield Brahmans at Eulogie and Director for Australian Brahman Breeders Association stated, “Colin’s support for industry and the people in will be greatly missed. When we talk about the beef being the backbone of regional Australia – that was Colin. He will be greatly missed, and my thoughts are with his family.”

David Connolly, President of the NTCA, spoke of the legacy that Colin had been a part of laying for the industry and the Association. “We all stand on the road laid down by people of Colin’s character and strength. He is one of the best examples I can think of in representing what it is to be a true cattleman.”

“He will be missed by us all.”

As per Colin’s wishes, a private funeral service will be held on property with the family, with his ashes to be spread over Waterloo station where he will finally come to rest.






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  1. John Colin Kimber, 21/06/2023

    I cannot imagine anyone better to be around than Colin.
    He was always positive, optimistic, practical and encouraging. He had a good sense of humor. Never once could you fault his commitment to the industry, his family, or my father. The same was very true of Alison and the boys. Colin will be greatly missed.

  2. Michele Harvey, 26/05/2023

    My thoughts go out to the Brett family for the loss of this kind and lovely man. I had the privilege of meeting Colin and Alison on their many trips from Waterloo to Kununurra. Rest in peace on the country you loved.

  3. Campbell Copeland, 25/05/2023

    Colin had unwavering faith in the Territory cattle industry and this is evident the way the Brett family developed Waterloo. They really put it on the map. Colin loved to tell the tale of how Waterloo got its brand. When a Durack and a Costello was riding into that country, they topped a ridge and experienced a breathtaking view of good country. One exclaimed, “Praise the Lord!” hence PTL. You’ll be well remembered Colin. You were one of the best.

  4. Mark Stanham, 25/05/2023

    RIP Colin Brett. I met and worked with Colin as a Steward at Sydney show, a wonderful man whi looked forward to seeing at each show. Condolences to Allison and familly, you have been through enough.

  5. alastair terry, 24/05/2023

    colin brett was my friend from our time together at wagga agricultural college from 1958 to 1960 he was a good friend to anbody he met please give our condolaces to the brett family

    my best wishes from alastair terry and family

  6. Anna Speer, 24/05/2023

    Colin was a true gentleman, always a kind word, time or encouragement to support, encourage and inspire those stepping into industry, I always enjoyed the chats and encouraging words while up the road at Newry as a pretty green ringer!
    A family that were and are pillars of our industry, thoughts are with Alison and family and Colin’s smile will be missed!

  7. Val Dyer, 23/05/2023

    My thoughts and prayers are with Alison, Hamish and families at this very sad time.
    I feel privileged to have known him.
    RIP now, Colin.

  8., 23/05/2023

    Vale. Colin Brett. Condolence’s flowing in on at the passing of Mr Brett, including this from Geoff Cochrane:
    A wonderful man!!!
    I first met Col when he was a steward in the beef cattle at Sydney Show about 18 years ago. I knew this man would be a friend for life. His classic quote when he judged the Brahmans at Sydney was.
    “you can’t see the red ones from a chopper in the red dust “
    We visited him twice at Waterloo and him and Alison visited us once in Nowra.
    Rest in Peace Col
    Sympathy to all your family.

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