Author(s): Barry Stone
For the early settlers who came from crowded cities and long established villages, it must have been extraordinary to find you could pack your belongings onto a bullock dray and head off to rural grasslands out of the reach of meddlesome authorities. They could just mark out a parcel of land, bring in sheep or cattle, and build a future. Some made their fortunes, others failed through drought, poor land, or bad management. Those who succeeded built vast pastoral empires running tens of thousands of head of stock, providing meat for the voracious growing colony and wool for export to England. These squatters became a bush aristocracy, with all the trappings. Families dined in gilded dining rooms with black servants waiting on them, dance halls were built in small communities, and grazing families intermarried to maintain control of property. Some even had their own artillery batteries, in case the workers revolted. These were the "kings in grass castles" and it was a time of big dreams. Barry Stone tells stories of the men and women fanned across Australia across the 19th century and created a rural establishment that contributed more than any other segment of society to the growth of a prosperous nation.