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Rangeland ecology and management

Origins of Travelling Stock Routes. 1. Connections to Indigenous traditional pathways

P. G. Spooner A B , M. Firman A and Yalmambirra A
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A Institute of Land, Water and Society, Charles Sturt University, PO Box 789, Albury, NSW 2640, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 32(3) 329-339
Submitted: 11 March 2010  Accepted: 16 August 2010   Published: 14 September 2010


Travelling Stock Routes (TSRs) are networks of grazing routes and reserves situated throughout much of south-eastern Australia, and thought to have originated from the informal tracks of early European explorers, pastoralists and settlers. However, the historic development of TSRs has been poorly documented, and mostly confined to the classic pastoral account. An alternative perspective is that many TSRs may have originated from previous Indigenous traditional pathways, which are known to have existed before European settlement. By examining available literature and maps, we found evidence which suggests that several TSRs, which follow the routes of early explorers, settlers or pastoralists, have developed from previous traditional pathways. Adoption of Indigenous pathways into the present-day stock route system has most likely occurred by (1) ‘passing on’ of knowledge of pathways by Indigenous guides and trackers, (2) observations of physical evidence of pathways by early Europeans, and their subsequent adoption, and (3) shared development of some TSRs as a result of Indigenous people working in the pastoral industry. These findings highlight the significant cultural heritage values of the TSR network, and the need to appropriately protect and manage this important national asset.

Additional keywords: drovers, historic roads, indigenous knowledge, settlement history, squatters.


The authors are grateful for the generous support provided by NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change, the Wiradjuri Council of Elders, the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, and NSW Mitchell and State Libraries. Many thanks to Jim Noble, Mal Ridges and James Cameron for their constructive comments and suggestions to improve an earlier draft of this manuscript. We are also grateful to Simon McDonald and Deanna Duffy (CSU Spatial Analysis Unit) for digitising maps and producing figures.


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