Fossil Downs legacy honoured

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

Mining billionaire Gina Rinehart has paid tribute to the pioneering spirit of the Henwood and MacDonald families as she prepares to take the reins of Kimberley cattle station Fossil Downs.

John and Annette Henwood were named Rural Achievers of the Year by the Pastoralists and Graziers Association at a ceremony in Perth last week, hours after Mr Henwood returned to WA from a bull sale in Rockhampton.

The couple look set to continue running Fossil Downs until at least November, when Mrs Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting is set to finalise a purchase believed to be worth $30 million.

Mrs Henwood's family took up the land that became Fossil Downs in 1882. Her ancestors completed the longest cattle drive in history to get the first stock to the station, which now covers about 400,000ha where the Fitzroy and Margaret Rivers meet.

In acknowledging the achievements of the Henwoods, Mrs Rinehart revealed ties between the family and hers went back generations.

"We are very grateful at being given the opportunity to be a part of the future of Fossil Downs, after knowing the Henwood family over generations," she said.

"Like my own ancestors, the Henwood and the MacDonald families helped open up the north when they arrived here 133 years ago. What we have today is a result of hard work and a pioneering spirit, and their love of the north. Those settlers deserve their place in our history and John and Annette have certainly earned theirs."

The Henwoods have also been long-standing and active members of the PGA, with Annette stepping down last year as treasurer of the PGA Kimberley division, a position she had held for more than 13 years.

During her time as treasurer, she was instrumental in raising the profile and the funding of the division, including hosting the PGA Centenary Ball and the Year of the Outback Ball at Fossil Downs.

During the suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia in 2011, Annette was involved in organising rallies and raising funds for a website to support pastoralists affected by the ban.

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