ENIGMATIC Northern Australian pastoral legend Peter Sherwin has died in Brisbane, aged 88.
At one point the largest private landowner in the country, Mr Sherwin in the 1980s owned and operated 17 northern cattle stations accounting for more than one percent of Australia’s total land mass.
From humble beginnings, Peter Sherwin was born and raised in the Queensland/NSW border town of Texas, the youngest son of a drover. After losing his father at a young age, his mother ran a small dairy to support her four children.
He left boarding school in 1946 aged 16 and headed north to work as a jackaroo. Within a few years he rose to become a head stockman. He went on to be a contract cattle drover in the 1950s and ‘60s, working throughout the Kimberley, the Northern Territory, into South Australia and Queensland.
Following years of hard work, he and his wife, Fay (Florrie, who died last year), became landholders in 1958 when they obtained the pastoral lease for Wallamunga Station in the Victoria River District, followed by Mungabroom Station on the Barkly Tablelands.
During this time, they raised their young family and ran a general store and fuel station for around 14 years in the remote Northern Territory town of Elliott.
Their landholdings grew in the late 1970s and peaked in the 1980s. Fueled by heavy financial backing through Elders, at the height of their pastoral career, Peter and Florrie Sherwin’s cattle empire had expanded to a claimed 300,000 head of cattle roaming across their vast Northern Australian properties.
By this time, Mr Sherwin had traded his camp horse for a Cessna 182 and embarked on airborne reconnaissance of his expansive landholdings and future acquisitions.
His vision to manage and transport unprecedented stock numbers was contributed to the massive and innovative infrastructure upgrades and developments still in use across Northern cattle stations today.
Peter Sherwin also developed a substantial cattle trucking business, Sherwin Transport, and later, Barkly Transport. Starting out with a Commer truck and semi-trailer, it grew to a fleet of 26 Mack prime movers and around 60 cattle trailers, tankers and freight trailers, that could be seen criss-crossing Northern Australia’s highways and station tracks around the clock.
Although better known for his achievements and success in the cattle industry, he was an astute businessman with an enviable instinct for timing. He departed the cattle arena with the public float and sale of Sherwin Pastoral Co in 1989, and continued his success in various business ventures. Yet Mr Sherwin’s love for the cattle industry drew them back to cattle stations in the Territory time and again.
Mr Sherwin kept a low profile – some would describe him as a recluse – and he rarely appeared at industry events or functions. He famously kept a suite in Brisbane’s five-star Sheraton (later Sofitel) hotel for more than 30 years.
While always striving to maintain a low-key presence in the quiet and remote Australian outback, he loved nothing more than the hype and excitement of handling big mobs of cattle—especially a few thousand head of fat bullocks.
At times considered controversial, Peter Sherwin was recognised and respected by many as a hard man, a harder businessman and an even harder worker. His rise from a young jackaroo straight from school, to becoming Australia’s largest private landholder in the 1980s, is undeniably remarkable.
His strong presence, extensive knowledge and significant influence will be missed by his family, friends and long-time business colleagues.
A private family service will be held.
Northern Australian cattle stations owned by Peter and Florrie Sherwin between 1958 and 2018:
- Anthony Lagoon
- Creswell Downs
- Eva Downs
- Banka Banka
- Beetaloo / OT
- Alroy Downs
East Kimberley and Victoria River District
- Gordon Downs
- Flora Valley
- Sturt Creek
- Victoria River Downs
- Queensland Channel Country
- Diamantina Lakes
- Galway Downs
Top End and Gulf of Carpentaria
NTCA salutes pioneer
The Northern Territory Cattlemens Association says pioneering cattlemen Peter Sherwin was a major contributor to the development of the Territory’s $1 billion cattle industry.
NTCA President Chris Nott said Mr Sherwin recognised what the potential of the cattle industry was and his influence on it will live on.
“The Territory has always had cattlemen who were pioneers in developing our industry and Peter Sherwin was one of those. Many of the properties he owned exist today and are major contributors to what is a $1 billion industry. We extend to his family our deepest sympathy,” Mr Nott said.
“He was a giant of the cattle industry on a scale like few others. He held land holdings which were greater than Kidman & Co. There are many stories about the man which will ensure he lives on in memory and reputation,” Mr Nott said.