Discover History with Wayne 'Krafty' Kraft
Meet Krafty, the Territory larrikin and history buff. It is a well known fact, everybody knows who Krafty is and if you don’t, you haven’t been in the Red Centre long enough. Krafty is known as a fun and loveable character with a penchant for having a rollicking good time. This larrikin is also a history buff, having recorded more than one hundred radio episodes on the history of Alice Springs street names.
Master of his Kraft - Wayne Kraft's story
One of the Territory’s most loved sons and recognizable characters, Wayne ‘Krafty’ Kraft is perhaps best known to Territorians as the owner of one of Australia’s most iconic outback eateries – The Overlanders Steakhouse. The son of a train driver and a homemaker, Krafty grew up in the 1950s near Gawler, South Australia. As the eldest of three children, Krafty spent much of his childhood roaming free on his family’s vineyard in the Barossa Valley riding bikes, catching tadpoles and playing Aussie Rules. Although he was unsure of his vocation in life, Krafty knew that his destiny lay beyond the grapevines.
“As I was growing up, I had this innate desire to get out there and make it happen,” Krafty said.
At the age of 18, Krafty joined the ANZ Gawler branch as a ‘bank johnny’ where he worked for one year before an opportunity arose for him to join the Tennant Creek branch. This was at the height of the Vietnam War and positions were becoming vacant because of national conscription.
ennant Creek in the 1970s was a booming mining town with a mixture of mining workers, bankers, law enforcers, public servants and medical officers. Krafty settled into life in the outback.
"Life in Tennant Creek was just fantastic, with us bank johnnies living, working and playing team sports together as part of the social fabric of the day,”
“We were also good friends with the other workers in town. There was always a welcome party, a farewell party or a birthday party – we were never short on social activities,” Krafty said.
After a brief sojourn back to Gawler, a stint in Darwin in the aftermath of Cyclone Tracy, Krafty came back to Central Australia to put down his roots. He bought the Barrow Creek Hotel and it was during those years that Krafty discovered his career passion and vocation – hospitality.
“I made my mark, in terms of my hospitality journey, because of Barrow Creek,”
“Those were the defining years of my life that gave me the grounding and stepping stone career-wise that eventually led me to the steakhouse,” Krafty said.
The legacy that Krafty has left behind in Barrow Creek is the famous genuine NT Bulls*** Burger, which is still on their menu today. This dish came about as a means to an end because first tier meats (rump, fillet) were quick to sell but second tier meats (brisket, chuck) were difficult to move. The Bulls*** Burger was honest about its fillings.
“It wasn’t difficult for the word to get around about the Bulls*** Burger. People were attracted to the Barrow Creek pub because they heard about the burger somewhere else on their travels,” Krafty said.
“It sold very well, to the point where we sold out of those second tier meats before we sold out of the first tier meats.”
Krafty sold the hotel two years later and became a financial partner of the Overlanders Steakhouse. Over the years, Krafty bought the other shares to become the sole owner.
“The steakhouse was always iconic from the time it opened,”
“I became a custodian of the steakhouse in 1989 and my desire then and now is to build on the original character and enhance the theme – which is overlanders, the cattle industry,” Krafty said.
The memorabilia in the steakhouse is a tribute to Central Australia’s pioneering past. Krafty is history lover and for the past 18 months he’s been on the Heritage Council of the Northern Territory.
“History is a passion of mine and my main interest about the history of Central Australia is the characters,”
“Some of them are still alive and some of them have passed on but it’s special when you meet people who’ve had a direct impact on the living history of the Territory,” Krafty said.
Krafty has also presented and produced more than 100 radio episodes on the history of Alice Springs street names. The episodes were based Jose Petrick’s book The History of Alice Springs through Landmarks & Street Names.
“I can travel in Australia, see a street name and wonder who it was named after but also have in my mind that that community doesn’t have the resources like we do in Alice Springs, thanks to Jose Petrick,”
“People still comment to this day, how much they liked the radio episodes because it gave them ownership of where they live,” Krafty said.
Central Australia is steeped in rich, cultural history and many visitors who come into the region have a keen interest in discovering both our ancient and modern history. And we have much to offer with award winning historical experiences and attractions such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service and Alice Springs Desert Park. The National Road Transport Hall of Fame houses Australia’s first road train that was significant in its role for delivering goods and services to the Red Centre, beginning with its inaugural journey in 1934. In August 2015 the museum will be hosting a reunion with their members and people from the trucking industry around Australia (8,000 to 10,000 expected visitors) to celebrate their 20th anniversary. The Alice Springs School of the Air has an incredible living history and significance in their role educating children in remote areas.
For Krafty, our rich cultural history and heritage is not just significant in Central Australia but has importance in our nation’s history. And it’s the people and early pioneers that continue to fascinate him.
“I enjoy going to the memorial cemetery and looking at the names on the headstones. Yes you see Lasseter and Namitjira but more than that there’s the Afghan side with the Satours and the rich cultural heritage and exchange between the Afghan people, the Aboriginal people and the Chinese influences,”
“Look at those names and look at the street names and there are layers upon layers of rich and fascinating history.”