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(Theme music) On the best of Landline this week, to a time when wool was King, we turn back the clock was part of shearing folklore. and Tuppal Station banana plantation waste into power, We look at efforts to convert of Australians at war - and one of the last legacies the soldier settlement scheme. Welcome to 2011, Hello, I'm Anne Kruger. requested stories from the past year. and another look at some of our most when Tuppal Station There was time early last century in the New South Wales Riverina boasted an enormous Merino flock, shearing sheds in the country. and one of the biggest and best But as sheep numbers dwindled, industrial-scale shearing complex, there was no need for an more or less went into mothballs. and the magnificent shed the middle of last year, That is until shed stirred to life again when Tuppal's 72-stand of Australia's top blade shearers for an event that drew that drew many and thousands of visitors. (Dog barking) has been pretty deep. The water across the roads and that

three foot of water, Getting sheep to go through you're working pretty hard. (Whistling and barking) over 60km in three days No-one said mustering 3,500 sheep would be easy, but when the skies opened up, ridiculously difficult. the task was made

on the NSW-Victoria border. This is River Murray country and the Merinos are being moved, It's shearing time, a century ago, as they would have been near Tocumwal. from Finley to North Tuppal Station of horse riding volunteers Moving them is a handful of dinky-di drovers - led by a family men who grew up on the stock route. It was a marvellous life. on the stock routes. My kids were born and grew up on the roads, I was born in Hay, and loved it all the time. (Helicopter blades) for this sodden wool shed The sheep are destined to be the stars of an event the wool business boom time. that will re-live How ya going? down that paddock today. Morning. Staff car park's What a difference a week makes. sheep from the other property. The rain. Last weekend we drove were travelling with the sheep. It rained the whole time we away, thinking, this is pointless. By Sunday we were about to give it Monday morning. Anyway, the rain went away in good order. The sheep are perfectly dry, North Tuppal Station. Bruce Atkinson owns shearing shed will come to life. Today is the day his sleepy and being overwhelmed. The combination of nerves support that the event has had. Just overwhelmed with the interested to come look at the shed. I can't believe so many people are have come to see is this. (Clang!) What the media and the public in one very large More than 70 blade shearers century-old shed. and very impressive and got the blades out - When they fired up, on the board - and there was deathly silence because normal shearing you could hear a pin drop and it's quite noisy. you've got all those machines, Here you could just hear the click, Click Go The Shears Boys. like in the song People had tears in their eyes. see that, and very proud to be here. It was quite an emotional thing to George Falkiner This is the first time of his family folklore. has seen the shearing shed Brereton Sadlier Falkiner - It was his grandfather, Francis who commissioned the building or Bert as he was known - shed in the nation back in 1900. of the biggest and best shearing alone cost ?350. The architectural drawings with its 72 shearing stands, The T-shaped building an astounding ?4,000. set Falkiner back of putting up a skyscraper I think it would be the equivalent or O'Connell Street. in Collins Street that has architectural merit, You could've designed something is functional and going to last, up to a bush carpenter and you just wouldn't leave it to construct a shed of this size, did it properly. so they put a lot of thought, Sadly, drought, the Great Depression of the once mighty Tuppal Station, and a carving up at full capacity meant that it operated for just a decade until 1910. bought North Tuppal in the 1920s, By the time the Atkinson family shearing stands in use. there were just five mechanical It's been in the family since 1928. as my father did. I've grown up with it, taken it for granted. And we've simply of requirement or input. It hasn't taken a lot We've never focused much on it. Bruce Atkinson was approached It was a year ago when by the Sports Shear Australia team. a couple of female wool-handlers, These blokes, along with needed to raise the funds Golden Shears competition. to get to the International Their plan was to ask people the wool shed in full flight, to pay to look through the Murray pine and tin structure but first they had to return to its former glory. it's in pretty good shape. For its age, It's really well built, re-stumping that we had to do. but there's a fair bit of That's taken a lot of time. for the last six months. We've had blokes working on that down for various reasons, Some of the shed had been pulled so we had to re-put boards back up, for the machines. and overhead planks were simply worn out, Obviously, some of the floors so we replaced that. for want of a better term, The shed was modernised, for a smaller, four-stand shed. had been used the last few years. Four or five stands When they approached me, want to do something here. I was amused somebody would and the amount of people interested, When I saw the interest, this is quite something. I thought, gee, Where has Anthony gone? Take your white coat off, mate. Inside ya. North Tuppal up and running again. It was Peter Artridge's idea to get

Leo. You're Leo...just here. the old Tom Roberts painting, And it was his plan to recreate Shearing Of The Rams. The media interest was intense, that astounded the team, but it was the public interest

who treat shearing as their sport. We were hoping for 5,000 people through the gate to make it work, and to fund the team across to Wales. We're certainly going to exceed that. We'd got more by nine this morning. It's very humbling, because I have been involved with Sports Shear since the beginning, and to see so many people involved now is wonderful, because the first few years we were really struggling financially. This is wonderful, yeah. In Australia, shearing isn't classified as a sport, so it doesn't get much in the way of government funding. This was meant to be a way of raising money to send the Sports Shear Australia team to Wales for an international competition, but what it seems to have done is tap into a real public yearning to be a part of a unique slice of Australian history. It's absolutely amazing. We've got a queue of cars 25 kays long. We certainly expected the people with a strong rural connection - the local farmers and those sort of people, to turn up. The fact people have come a long way to see shearers get sweaty over a sheep, surprises us. There's a lot of people from towns. It's just an historic event. Australia was brought up on the sheep's back, so had to be here. Greg Drew, a shearer for 23 years, brought his two sons along to join the shearers on the board. They came from Morawa in Western Australia. It's just magnificent to see all stands lined up. The length of the board will never be seen again, and something that I myself take pride and joy in seeing, 'cause kids around Australia will never get to see it. Jills Angus Burney is a former shearer and journalist who is now a barrister in her native New Zealand. A world women's record holder in the '80s, she shears in her holidays. It's my birthday this weekend, and it's my birthday treat. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of something that's so historic. It's sort of exceeded any expectations, 'cause I didn't know what it would be like, but to actually see 72 shearers working at once... And the logistics of that. The wool-handlers, the organisation behind it, the wool room - there's eight wool tables. Even in a big shed - the biggest I've ever seen before is 16-stand - that might have two tables. John Read travelled from Winchelsea near Geelong to see the action. He worked here once in 1962. There was only eight shearers in '62, Prue, but it was great to say that I'd shorn here, and it was really good - it was a great experience. Woo-hoo! A lot of people think it's hard work, but shearing's not hard no work's hard if you like it, and I found shearing was a wonderful life. I've worked in shearing sheds for probably nearly on 50 years, over in the Mallee, and, yeah, I was very interested, because I've never been in a shed this big. It's pretty cool how they like chop the wool off the sheep and stuff. I've come from Temora, which is a bit over 200km away, and I came because I've been a wool classer all my life, and I've never been in a shed this big, and very seldom I've seen shearing with a blade. ? Those were the days, my friend ? We thought they'd never end ? We'd sing and dance forever and a day. ? As the shearing slowed, and the last of the shorn sheep made their way into the paddocks around North Tuppal, it was apparent Sports Shear Australia had raised more than enough to get to Wales. As many as 13,000 people had filed through the shed. Almost all the 7,000 sheep had been shorn in two days. And for owners, Bruce and Shane Atkinson, who don't actually live on the property, it was overwhelming. I think everyone's been blown away. We had no idea there'd be so many people, but it highlights that people are interested in their heritage and history, and I think, the wool industry. BRUCE: It's particularly emotional for me because my father just lived for sheep, lived for this property, just lived for the whole industry, and it would have been an enormous gratification for him to see this. ? La-la-la-la, la-la-la-la... ? Well, mate, what a bloody day. Can't believe the rain we've had. It's been fantastic, but the ticks are all out. Ticks? Ah, stuff the bloody ticks. Just stick some spirit on - that'll sort 'em out. (Laughs) This little farm, it was a citrus farm, and the fruit we didn't want to spray, and the market didn't want it 'cause it was the wrong size, colour and all that bullshit. Coles and Woolies, how they perform and carry on. So, it was like value adding. We could then use the fruit to make the spirit to make the farm viable and work. You know, Alla, 17 years, as I walk up this lovely avenue of trees, ALLA: Well, that's the great thing about being up here.

At just two hectares, it must be one of the smallest productive farms in Australia. But since 1996, it's been the main source of supply for Michael and Alla Ward's acclaimed Tambourine Mountain Distillery. We don't spray or don't use pesticides, herbicides, and we just go to find us the best quality that we can do in the way we do it. The little hands-on way, the artisanal approach, if you like, and that's sort of paying off. What staggers me is how quickly it's come back after we cut it back. I know. It goes quickly. It's just so good. Our little babies. What you have to do... Let me get in. You concentrate on the wormwood, and I might just grab a bit of mudwort. Today they are harvesting herbs for Australia's only commercially produced absinthe. (? Accordion music) Absinthe was the drink of choice in bohemian Paris in the late 19th century. Its mystique comes as much from its association with artists such as Vincent van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec, as it does from its reputation for psychoactive ingredients. The effect from its potent mix of herbs such as wormwood was known as the green fairy. I guess it was very much the drink of artists and the intellectuals of the time. And as it sort of evolved, it sort of gathered up a lot of myth and artistry along the way. That's probably what it's all about. We can only just all presume. We haven't got the years of experience of actually living in that era, so we're just sort of re-enacting and just sort of explaining what we've heard along the way. It's probably the story gets bigger and stretched out more every time you talk to someone. As a self-taught distiller, making absinthe, for Alla Ward, is more about the challenge of producing an authentic beverage from local produce such as aniseed myrtle. It's an aniseed spirit which is laced and layered with various bitter herbs. Essentially, I distil a spirit from fruit. Can be anything. Could be from grapes, kiwi fruit - anything that's on the go. And then I steep various herbs that we grow. A lot of bitter herbs such as wormwood and hyssop and such, and we steep them in the spirit. And then that spirit is redistilled, and there are several layers. They're all distilled individually, and then, of course, they're all blended to create my own take on the absinthe. In the alcoholic beverages category, proudly sponsored by Markem-Imaje, goes to Tambourine Mountain Distillery. (Cheers) Last year the Tamborine Mountain distillery scooped the pool at the Australian Food Challenge Awards. Its local success comes on top of more than 100 international awards for its range of 70 different spirits, schnapps and liqueurs. We are now the most awarded distillery and liquor brand in the whole of Australia, which is huge. It gets us recognition. Wherever we go, people have heard of us. More overseas than what they have here, through entering these competitions in America and England, and all over Europe. It really does pay, and I will continue doing it all the time, just to stay an edge, a nose ahead of your competitor. I love sticking it up the big boys, saying, we knocked them off again. I love that - the little Aussie battler having a go. I reckon that's exciting. Say na zdrowie. ALL: Na zdrowie! And throw it straight down. It'll warm. You'll get this nice lemon flavour. Wow! Isn't that good? Beautiful. It didn't burn, did it? No! Delish.

Ultimately though, the Wards measure their success in laughter. They sell most of their product at the cellar door where having fun is compulsory. That's lovely. Thank you. How about that? ALL: ? Happy Birthday to you. ? Happy Birthday. (Clapping) MICHAEL: It's just a fun place. Business is fun, but it's not funny. There's a little difference.

And so, we just have this exciting time, and we give this all to the people, and people just keep coming back. And looking in the visitors' book, you read in there, 'What a fun place', 'I love this'. Of course, they get a little tiddled and they spend some dosh, so the till is all happy. It's just a great, wonderful experience. Good, isn't it? She wants sweet and yummy. How much was that one?

? Sweet and yummy. ? Where's Wattle Toffee? Oh, she's sweet and yummy. You can't taste her - you've got to have this. The image may be pure eccentricity, but the marketing is calculated and professional. Trade events, such as the four-city Good Food and Wine Show, are an important showcase, and the business is starting to build a national client base. We're pouring out a vodka, guys. Anybody want a vodka?

Come on, line up. Just line up if you want a vodka, come on. Na zdrowie. That's the go. Don't all shout at once. The company's produce is now available at more than 100 outlets nationwide, but Michael Ward insists he's not interested in doing business with the biggest players in the liquor industry. He says he's not prepared to carry debt for months at a time

from Coles or Woolworths. They're just so heavy-handed and just so Gestapo. They laud it over you. I said, 'No bloody way. I don't need you blokes. Piss off!' They couldn't care a stuff. They're only interested in money, money, money, screwing the people that supply them, and then tearing up the paperwork, the contract. You gotta pray for 'em. They're bloody whackers. You're gonna get a really, really good crop this year. Some of these vines might even fall over, but unfortunately, mate, the market doesn't want them that much. And the preference for small business extends to using local produce wherever possible. I think everybody in the fruit business is having trouble. Woolworths and Coles keep the prices down to what they want. The fruit we see on the vines here, they won't even accept. If you didn't have the distillery buying your seconds, where would it go? We'd throw what we could on a ute, and go to Southport to the fruit shops, and sell it. They'll take it, but they give you nothing for it. It's better than it staying here, and crows eating it. And the fact that they've actually done more of an old London-style gin... Tamborine Mountain's beverages may be award-winning internationally, but Australians generally still need to be educated about new, exotic flavours. The company's marketing includes courting cocktail bartenders, such as Brisbane's Chris Denham, David Gregory and Lucy George. So I have a name... OK. ...the Moon-lit Minx. (Laughs) There's a lot of beer drinkers in Queensland, so to get them to try something new can be challenging. But that's part of our job. Makes it more fun. 50mls of wild citrus. (Ice shaking) The liqueurs aren't overly sweet, but still got all the flavoured background, and not too much burn or spice, so they come out fine - perfect for cocktails. 40mls and the chocolate and chilli. Where a lot of companies will add sugar, and keep percentages down, he's kept most of them at a very high proof, meaning they're not being diluted, they've got weight to them when you're making drinks. (Machine noise) Last year the Wards invested $500,000 in a new bottling plant and storage, now being managed by their daughter, Sonya. But even with huge potential for expansion, Sonya Ward says she wants to maintain the company's personal appeal. It's very important to us. We're very proud to be a family business. We're not bothered about getting big. We're happy to stay small. It's important to us to have family orientation, and just keep nice boutique, and keep that quality up there. While we're alive, we'll remain as we are, cause' it really is hard to learn new tricks when you're an old dog, essentially. To that end, the company's unique hand-painted bottles, and a commitment to quality local produce will continue. You've got to have high-quality, premium product, presentation and hand-painted bottles. And natural. Don't use any chemicals or nothing. Oh, I love sniffing on it. We go the furlong to create different flavours and tastes - things they tell us they'd like us to do. Being tiny like we are, we can do individual things for them. We could never do that if we were multinational. Multinational don't give a bollocks. They don't give a toss. Don't get me on that subject - I'll start saying things I shouldn't say. But there again, you just pray for the bastards. That's what I do.

Of all the rural jobs out there, picking bananas must be one of the toughest. It's hot, humid, hard yakka requiring pretty decent knife skills. And just to lift the degree of difficulty up another notch, hitching a lift on the bunches can be a host of biting wildlife including rats, spiders, ants and snakes. This is the Bush family's packing shed at Kennedy, 2.5 hours south of Cairns. One of Queensland's bigger growers, they pack 400,000 cartons of bananas a year from their 162-hectare farm. Geoff Bush says a high level of waste is accepted in the industry.

Probably at a real good time, you've got 20% and at a bad time, you can have 50%. Fruit is rejected if it's damaged or if it's the wrong shape or size. The mantra here is, if in doubt, throw it out. They demand a cluster pack - you're not allowed to pack anything under three bananas in a cluster - so anything under that gets thrown out whether it's good or bad, and then just the due process, you get a fair few singles break off in packing. What strikes you in the shed, is the number of reject bananas. While to the untrained eye, much of what's judged unfit to pack, looks fine, it's being dumped because by the time it reaches a retailer, the smallest bruise, nick or cut

will have become an unsightly and unsaleable blemish. The level of waste also changes depending on what the market wants. Then when the market's over-supplied, you can't get enough money for your real big fruit or small fruit. Fruit's broken off in the paddock before it's bagged, but even some of it's a bit small, so at times there's nearly 50% go up the scrap chute.

Growers either use their banana waste, or pay for it to be taken away. The Bush's use theirs. Both fruit and stems are chopped up and put back out in the plantation. It's steady work for two drivers. Every few hours they leave the packing shed

with spreader bins full of waste. We mulch it and then throw it back into the paddock. Is that a good source of nutrients for the next crop? Yeah. Very high in potassium, and has the other things it's taken out of the ground, so it returns it. But it's not a cheap option. Manpower and equipment is required. The Bush's do a good job of distributing their waste through special, stainless steel hoppers they've had built. It's probably a couple of hundred thousand dollars worth of equipment there. The Tully-based Mackay family runs the biggest banana operation in country, growing 10% of the Australian crop. Traditionally, their waste has ended up back out in the paddocks as fertiliser and as cattle feed.

We use our waste product from our bananas sometimes for cattle feed, especially through dry times. We're short of feed, we run our banana pulp and stems back out to the cattle, and they love it. They come racing after the truck to wait for it to get tipped out. Last year the Mackay's came up with a solution to the frustrating problem of throwing away fruit that's perfect on the inside, but has blemished skin. They built a pulp factory at their storage warehouse south of Tully. There's a need for frozen pulp in the industry. By getting close to the market, it was identified, and we ran with it. This small production line turns out ten tonnes of peeled bananas a week. The pulp is frozen and sold to the baking industry

and juicing companies. At the moment we can put out about ten tonne of pulp. That's probably a lot of muffins, That's a starting point, but with our waste that we've got, we'd have at least between 30 and 40 tonne to be able to process, so there is room for growth there. It's an easy solution, yeah, and I think it's supplying a product

that Australia would otherwise maybe import as well. So, yeah, that's definitely a good outcome. Five years ago, before banana pulp emerged as a solution for some of the bigger growers, the Australian Banana Growers' Council turned its mind to finding a more valuable use for banana waste that many of its members could adopt. It commissioned the University of Queensland

to look at the potential of bananas to generate energy. It turned out they were good. A lot of methane, very high quality, not much hydrogen sulphide or other contaminates. Growcom, horticulture's peak industry body in Queensland, liked the report's numbers. We figured out a farm the size of Bush's, the bananas they're throwing out every year is worth around 140,000 litres of diesel fuel, or 50 kilowatts continuous power, and we thought that's got to be worth considering. So worthwhile that Growcom and the Queensland Government's Environmental Protection Agency jointly funded the construction of an anaerobic biodigester at the Bush family's banana farm. A $300,000 pilot project, the digester is basically a big bladder the size of an Olympic swimming pool. The waste ferments in the airless environment, producing methane. Gas is produced, and it's stored in that bladder, and then we either compress it and store it in bottles, or ultimately, we'll use it at virtually atmospheric pressure out of the digester into the generator. And what's in there apart from bananas? Water and lime. The pilot digester is producing enough energy to power five houses a day. What we produce has got a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide, and basically, a cubic metre of gas produced when the digester's running well, has the same energy value as a litre of LPG or about two-thirds of a litre of diesel. The digester is capable of producing enough energy to eliminate the packing shed's annual $40,000 power bill. When you look at this shed potentially being able to produce somewhere around 140,000 litres of diesel energy equivalent per year from its waste, that's a slice of energy most farmers would be happy with. That'd be nice, but we've got to be realistic. With the project running on his farm, Geoff Bush has been able to keep an eye on the pilot.

He's sceptical that rejected bananas will one day do away with his power bills. I don't really know on that one. Long way to go, put it that way. Had about eight inches of water in it. I pulled out the bung, and just let it drain. Weatherfords is a US company involved in the global mining and oil industry, asked engineer, Norm Purcival, to tweak a coal seam gas generator for the project.

This is our 300-cubic inch Ford engine - they're super reliable. The carby there is just an automotive style gas carby. I'm given a challenge, I try to make it work. The guys in the factory enjoyed it as well. Electricity is produced by burning the banana gas in the generator. Is there a lot of energy in the banana gas? There is. It's still 50-70% methane, so if you can make it ignite and burn in an engine or flame, then there's plenty of energy. He says any manure or horticultural waste available in large steady volumes, can provide farmers with energy. The opportunities to use electricity rather than diesel, or to use on-farm derived electricity rather than purchased-in electricity is fairly significant. It seems every time we turn around, we find something new to use it for. The project has not gone smoothly though. At one point, packing shed staff complained about the fumes from the digester. We had some problems with our digester because it went acid, and when it goes acid, it produces phenols, which can smell pretty bad. A call from the shed manager said, 'The smell coming out of here would make a maggot gag.' (Laughs)

What has worked though, is the conversion of a vehicle to run on banana gas. Keith Noble says the car drives like any other, and no, there's no banana smell. Similar to an LPG gas conversion, it can run on straight diesel, it can run on LPG or it can run on compressed natural gas. In fact, methane is exactly the same as coal seam gas or natural gas. It's a matter of turning a switch, and a green light comes on. There's one other contribution banana waste can make to a grower's bottom line. The fermentation process leaves nutrients intact. The dominant nutrient in bananas is potassium which is what makes it a good human food, and potassium is stable. It passes completely through the process, and instead of being distributed back on to the field as a solid waste in the chopped bananas, which is what the Bush's currently do, we get a digestate water, easily injected into the irrigation system, and put it where we want.

Big banana growers like the Mackays are watching the project with interest. Power generation's one plus out of it, and the by-product's good to use back out in the paddock so I think it sounds very interesting. The Mackays have four packing sheds

and thousands of tonnes of waste bananas every year. They bus their staff to and from work. They like the idea that one day their buses could run on banana gas, their sheds on banana electricity. It sounds like something we'd look into more, times we do have a lot of waste, so it would be really good to utilise it.

To scale up the banana power pilot project and fix some of the teething problems, requires more money, and that's where the project sits now. We've drawn a line in the sand. We've completed this project now. and we're after the funding to take it to the next stage, which is its full commercial application.

Reg Houston believes energy prices will have to rise before this type of green renewable energy is an attractive investment. I think most farmers will take notice of that sort of potential energy saving, and the more expensive energy gets, which seems to be a certainty at the moment, the more interest there will be. We need to look at alternative energy streams, and companies like ours will apply money to R&D

if there's a pay off at the end. That's what we're looking at here - what the pay off is likely to be.

The story of soldier settlement in Australia is a tale of two world wars and many personal stories of failure and triumph. Peter MacIntosh is the son of a soldier settler. His father, Peter, took up land in Robinvale on the Murray River in Victoria after the Second World War. The original properties were around about 20 acres planted, 15 acres of dried fruit, plus some citrus, and we had a few stone fruit, if I remember. Now my son and I operate about ten of these properties. There's probably about 200 acres in production. Peter MacIntosh's father survived years as a prisoner of the Japanese. His reward for war service, as it was for thousands of others, was a block of land. And the family can now claim three generations of involvement. It served a useful and almost noble purpose. What also seems remarkable now, is that soldier settlement after World War II was even attempted given the experience after the First World War. Marilyn Lake wrote a history of First World War soldier settlement in Victoria. Soldiers started returning in 1915-1916, and they were often seen to be a problem of discipline. A lot were in trouble with the law, seemed to be idle in the streets, and political leaders wanted to find a scheme quickly to occupy them. It was the dream of many returning Anzacs to take up land, and do something for themselves. One of the really strong forces feeding into this is people's desire for independence, and landed independence was seen as the main route for ordinary men, you know, to escape what might've been called wage slavery. Soldier settlements were established in every state after the first war, and Victoria put the largest number on the land. Yet even before it began, its failure was widely predicted. The parliamentary debates, one after another said, this will be a failure, we don't want to this. Closer settlement has a long history of failure, it's cost us a lot. People don't have the capital, aren't suited to the land. Not enough good land. So, whenever anyone spoke about it, it was to predict its failure. (? Triumphant music) In the end, though, governments pressed ahead, money was spent, land acquired and across the country, more than 20,000 took up blocks. The area around Mildura was selected as one of the places for soldier settlement after the First War.

They called it community patriotism. They had 90 horse teams travel for miles from Mildura to help these guys clear the land, and get it set up for planting. Max Whiting's written a history of some of the soldier settlements in the area. This was the Birdwoodton settlement, which was what was known as the mid area. And block one is up in this corner? Right there. And that went down to No.23. Bob and Elwyn Stevens' father, Jim, lasted five weeks at Gallipoli before typhoid put an end to his war. He drew block one at Birdwoodton. Well, it was hard work, but we all worked hard, from my older sister down to Bob, which is three girls and three boys in the family. One of my jobs was to bring the cows home from the paddocks we rendered in the area to run the cows on. I'd bring the cows home on my way home from school, We used to have to deliver milk after school, morning and night. Dried fruit was the mainstay of the blockies' income here. Max Whiting's father came here in 1917. I recall he had quite a few problems because he was wounded at Gallipoli. He had visits backward and forwards to the repatriation hospital, and that meant that we needed to have other people come in and help work the property. Today the vines are giving way to housing. This was until pretty recently all dried fruit? Yes, certainly was. Dried fruit no longer provides the living it once gave a generation of diggers. In many ways, they were the lucky ones. Those who ended up in marginal country without irrigation tell a different story. Out in the Mallee, First World War soldier settlers often found themselves unable to rise above the most squalid conditions. They're on land that is often marginal, was never meant to support dairy farming or wheat farming.

They are not even meant to or allowed to employ labour, so they're often completely overworked. They have no capital. They're in debt to the government both to pay off the land, but also all the equipment of the farm itself. So, all of these factors combine, and many of them are on pensions. Are on pensions for war wounds. It quickly became clear that those who'd predicted

the widespread failure of soldier settlements were right. Poor land, small holdings and too little capital quickly put many under a mountain of debt. Volatile markets compounded the problems. In Victoria by 1939, 60% had left their blocks, the dream of a life on the land unfulfilled. Very interesting when you read soldiers' letters, They clearly have this sense of a land fit for heroes. They were promised things on enlistment, and so many would write in bitterness, from the Mallee or wherever, is this what was promised - put a man out on the land and abandon him? (? Triumphant music) Yet a decade later, the nation was again putting soldiers on the land as a reward for war service, and this time it would be different. Robinvale is a link between two world wars and the response to them. George Cuttle - Robin to his family - wanted to be a flyer in the First War. He went to England and joined the Air Force. But didn't come back? And was killed, just outside of Villers-Bretonneux in France.

Robinvale was named for him when his family subdivided land in 1924. But large-scale development didn't arrive until after World War II when the town was chosen for soldier settlement. So, this is when people were discussing the idea of setting up the settlement scheme? Yes, they were on the back of Dad's truck. Around the time when George Robin Cuttle's niece, Jenny Cuttle, met the man she'd later marry, George Black, one of the first men to draw a block in the new development. The settlers who came down, mostly the women came down with their children, and they lived in tents, maybe on the river or just somewhere round on the blocks - in very primitive conditions. A couple of families camped down on the river, and the first baby was born on the riverbank. Jack Forbes didn't get his Robinvale block until 1954. I arrived to see a complete bare paddock, which had been stubble. In other words it had grown wheat prior to that. A fence around it and a tin shed, or tin hut to be precise.

And no water, no electricity, no anything. By the early 60s, Robinvale was prospering, and the ABC's Landline equivalent of the day offered this snapshot. REPORTER: Each blockie, as a soldier settler is called, has 15 acres of vines for fruit production and five acres for citrus fresh fruit or vegetables. Today this packing shed handles 8,000 tonnes a year, mostly for the export market. When we got notification that we'd been granted a property, we said we'd won Tatts Lotto 'cause that's what it felt like. It was literally free. The repayments on the properties were very low.

They didn't start coming until we started to get a crop. Packing facilities are already available for a further 50,000 bushels of citrus. In 1997 they planted this grove of trees on the town's outskirts to mark 50 years since the project's inception. 246 trees - one for each block, marking a period when agriculture was treated very differently. As well as citrus and vegetable crops, the area also produces cotton, olive, stone fruits and timber. Back in my parents' days and their friends, we had protected markets to a great degree. We commonly sold most of our fruit into the UK. There's a whole heap of tariff arrangements and preferential treatments and so forth, which all protected that sort of small family unit farm.

Just as after the First World War, Government had to acquire private land to resettle servicemen and their families. Warwick Station in Western Victoria was established in the 1840s, and many of its original buildings still stand. (Church bell rings) They're much as they were when the ABC came 45 years ago to look at Warwick's role in soldier settlement. The church-like steeple still houses the bell summoning the men for meals or conference with the boss. (Church bell rings) Nowadays, the 12,000 acres have become a number of smaller properties, and in about 1958, the soldier settlement commission took over some 3,000 acres to create six new properties on which they settled soldiers returned from the Second World War. One of the settlers here is Mr George Robbie. Good lookin' fella. Tell us how much land you have, and what it's like. 543 acres on the property I have, John. I think Dad was pretty lucky that he had another job that he could get off farm, shearing, and in those early years, Dad did work very, very hard with the off-farm to try to keep things going. Dairy holds up a lot of time. George Robbie's son David still runs what his family came to know as Willow Springs. The mix has changed a bit. Wool no longer dominates. David Robbie grows fat lambs, and the dairy herd his father ran's been replaced by beef. Come on! It's true that after World War II, soldier settler blocks were generally bigger than they'd been before, but they weren't extravagant - a point George Robbie made. I think there's quite a good living in them. But if you had a little bit more ground, it'd be a lot better - more comfortable. 45 years later, David Robbie can make the same point. What do you think is the ideal size now, in this district, for a grazing property? Probably round about the 2, 000 acres. (Gasps) Anything from 1,000 acres on, you'd be OK. Rollin' these blokes up for the last time. The story of soldier settlement is mixed, but for many it really was the chance of a lifetime. For Peter MacIntosh's parents. I think he was very proud to be, and very happy to be allocated a property, and so was my mother, who thought it was like a paradise, in fact. She thought the house on the property was a mansion compared to what she'd had during the Depression. For Jack Forbes, who's still RSL President in Robinvale. I think it was a great success. I think we all said that, but probably Robinvale was one of the best settlements. Go back. Good girl. And for David Robbie, still farming the land his father took up. I really loved the land, and still do. Otherwise, I wouldn't be here today if I didn't like the land, and fortunately we have been able to make a go of it and survive. FILM NARRATOR: In all the great emptiness, a lonely track joining Marree in South Australia to Birdsville in Queensland. The Birdsville Track. Tom Kruse was a screen legend long before Hollywood felt the need to create his namesake. A carrier called Kruse. Every fortnight fighting the san, 700 miles to Birdsville and back. Every fortnight the story begins. A strong, quiet sort of bloke, Tom didn't actually blaze trails through the bush in this Badger. That would have been easy. Instead, he and other pioneering truckies tackled the faint trace of a trail through sand hills, creek beds and gibber plains that became known as the Birdsville Track, week in, week out for the best part of 30 years. ON RADIO: Tom is arriving! Tom is arriving! The stories of the bush, the stories of the Strzelecki and Birdsville Tracks. it is a very romantic story, obviously hidden by huge hardship and deprivation in many ways. I remember Dad was terribly taken by John Heyer's film, and we saw it a number of times. I think Tom epitomised that Australian spirit of improvisation, of determination, of courage, hard work, loyalty. Those things were great characteristics. I think, Dad... many of those characteristics, he actually espoused to. Crawford family business now keeps thousands of rigs on the road. But arguably CMV's greatest claim to fame is selling Tom Kruse his first truck. They've supported the restoration of the other star of the Back Of Beyond movie, this 1936 Leyland Badger, and spearheaded fundraising for some other lasting memorials, which are being progressively erected across the bush. Including hear at the National Road Transport Hall of Fame in Alice Springs. ? Happy Birthday, dear Tom ? Happy Birthday to you. ? Hip hip! Hooray! Hip hip! Hooray! Now aged 96, the bloke they reckon could get a bucket of bolts started,

has made a few concessions to speed and comfort when it comes to mobility, but wasn't about to miss out on this event. (Applause) OVER PA: I don't think there's any better mail truckie in Australia than our Tom Kruse. When people say, 'What's Tom Cruise got to do with the Hall of Fame?' I say, 'No, not that bloke in Hollywood - the real Tom Kruse.'

And he is the real Tom Kruse. (Applause) And he's a real legend. And so is his wife, Valma, seen here during the re-enactment of Tom's 500km mail run from Birdsville to Marree back in 1999. It's been very exciting, and it's taken me back many, many years, sort of living those times over again. Emotional in different places. I guess in a sense, this whole restoration project has kept him going. Oh, it's been wonderful for him. Yes, it has. He has thoroughly enjoyed it. It's been exciting actually. When they're getting towards the finish line, it's been exciting. Sadly, she wasn't able to help celebrate Tom's latest milestone. Valma Kruse passed away a few days before this ceremony in the Red Centre, aged 91. we'll be waitin' ? When the mailman comes, we'll be there ? When Tom comes along, we'll be singing this song ? When the mailman comes, we'll be there ? When the mailman comes... ? Time's beaten us again, but next week, when the Best of Landline continues, we'll head to the east Kimberley, where rice is making a comeback in the Ord Valley. Certainly the future here will be having specially bred varieties that are suited to this climate here. That's one of our stories next week. Hope you can join us then. Bye for now.

(Theme music) Hi, welcome to Gardening Australia's summer series where we have some of the stories from 2010 that were the most popular with you at home. This week, Jerry explores a garden that provides habitat for wildlife, just kilometres from Brisbane's CBD. Tino takes a look at some different types of garlic. The variety I'll be planting today is a Purple Stripe because I find the hard neck types do a lot better in a cooler climate. Perennial borders look great at this time of the year