Flinders Ranges’ tourism operator Rawnsley Park Station celebrated 50 years of tourism on April 6 with the launch of a book on the history of the property.
Launched by Federal Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg, Pastoralism to Tourism: A History of Rawnsley Park Station offers a fascinating insight into the history of the Station and its owners, the Smith family’s, long association with the Flinders Ranges.
Author Kym Tilbrook, a former senior journalist at The Advertiser, said he thoroughly enjoyed writing Pastoralism to Tourism, with the project taking just over a year.
“I have had a lifelong love of the Flinders - my great, great grandfather worked there in the 1860s and I spent many happy holidays walking in the Flinders with my family,” he said.
“To be entrusted to write about Rawnsley Park is a great honour and I thank Tony and Julie Smith for backing me. Rawnsley Park has a very rich history that needs to be told.
“The Smith family has achieved so much in the Flinders and tourism and deserve the accolades they receive. Pulling everything together for the book was challenging, but at the same time it was also very rewarding. There was an enormous amount of material to wade through and hour upon hour of research to get the story right.”
The Smith family’s association with the Flinders Ranges dates back to the 1880s, with current owner Tony Smith’s great grandfather, John (Union Jack) Smith, moving to Hawker from Mintaro in 1885.
The land that makes up Rawnsley Park Station has been in the Smith family since the early 1900s, and was previously part of Prelinna and Arkaba Stations. It was purchased by Tony’s father, Clem Smith, in 1953 and the name changed to Rawnsley Park Station in 1961.
Rawnsley Park Station welcomed its first paying guests in May 1968, with the then owners Clem and Alison offering basic accommodation in one cabin and running sheep shearing demonstrations to generate extra income on the then struggling sheep station.
Fifty years later, Rawnsley Park Station is a world-class tourism venture that is a key player in South Australia’s tourism industry.
Under the stewardship of Clem and Alison’s eldest son, Tony, and his wife, Julie, Rawnsley Park Station has won multiple tourism awards, and their luxury eco-villas have been lauded as one of the best regional tourism developments in the state.
Owner Tony Smith said his parents’ vision and foresight had laid the foundations for Rawnsley Park Station becoming the success story it is today.
“Times were tough on a sheep station in the Flinders Ranges in the 1960s, and Clem and Alison realised they had to diversify to survive,” he said. “It was a decision that paid off.
“Julie and I are delighted with how the book has turned out and believe it really captures the evolution of Rawnsley Park Station and our family’s deep affinity with the Flinders Ranges.
“It’s also an important chronicle of how tourism has developed in the region and provides a great insight into the history of the Flinders Ranges in general.”
Containing stunning photographs and designed by Karen English of Eleven Across, Pastoralism to Tourism describes the 12,000-hectare Rawnsley Park Station’s transformation from struggling pastoral property to tourism industry leader.
The book contains sections on the Smith family’s early links with the Flinders Ranges, the history of the property and the growth of tourism in the region - including early correspondence with the then SA Tourist Bureau - as well as personal recollections on growing up at Rawnsley by Tony Smith and his sons, Greg, Glenn and Neville.
There are also chapters on the geology of the Flinders Ranges, the Adnyamathanha people and the native flora and fauna, as well as sections on notable historical events such as the disappearance of Nicholas Bannon in 1959 and near-death experience of former Miss South Australia, Marilyn Gilbertson in 1967.
Pastoralism to Tourism is available from Rawnsley Park Station, ph: (08) 8648 0700 or email firstname.lastname@example.org