Meet Jerry Kelly, the Warumungu man with a passion for horses. Born under a prickly bush on Alroy Station, Jerry has a deep and spiritual connection to the Barkly region, it’s his home and in his words “it’s where I belong”. Jerry is proud of the rich cultural heritage in Tennant Creek and divides his time showing visitors the region on horseback and working with the youth at his local cultural centre.





Jerry riding hard to keep traditional ways alive... Jerry Kelly's story

Jerry Kelly is a Warumungu Man and Traditional Owner from the Barkly Region. He was born under a prickly bush on Alroy Station, in the autumn of 1958. His mother worked as a cook on the station where she met his father, an Irish butcher. Shortly after Jerry’s birth, his father left.

Despite the departure, Jerry’s childhood was largely a happy one. Growing up on Alroy and then Banka Banka Station, north of Tennant Creek, Jerry never felt that he was missing much. Surrounded by his mother and the traditional, older Aboriginal stockmen who ‘grew him up’ – the void left by his absent father was filled with the reassuring presence of his Warumungu people.

“When I was on Banka Banka Station I speak Warumungu, if you put Warumungu in a book I can’t read it, I was taught straight from the Warumungu people. The language is not something you can learn at school or in a book”

From the age of six, the older Aboriginal men on the station taught Jerry stockman skills and how to survive on the land.

“I learnt how to muster, rodeo, drive cattle – these old people showed us the way to do things out bush, breaking horses, riding, building yards, fencing, making damper, cutting up a killer – everything old ways”

It was also common in the 1960s for remote cattle stations to have silver bullet caravans where children were educated. This was where Jerry received his formal schooling. Out of school, Jerry spent his time making toys out of boxes, wire, tobacco tins and learning from the stockmen.

This training groomed Jerry for life as a stockman and as a grown man he worked on remote cattle stations throughout Northern Territory and outback Queensland. Working with horses has always been Jerry’s passion but it was not until he met Georgina that he discovered a way of using his passion to help others. 
Born and bred in Sydney, Georgina Bracken was an exhibiting visual artist who often travelled to the desert to paint. Inspired by the natural colours, the raw beauty of the landscape and the outback characters – she made Central Australia her permanent home in 1990.

“It’s inspiring – it’s raw, it’s beautiful. It’s such a luxury to have space, fresh air and yes it can be harsh – hot and dry but it is a last frontier, a rare and subtle gem, a refuge, a wilderness – a place to make your soul soar”

Georgina spent her first nine years living and working in remote communities before she settled in Tennant Creek. She was managing Nyinkka Nyunyu Art & Cultural Centre when a young colleague requested to match make Georgina with her father. She met Jerry and sparks flew. It wasn’t long before they were looking to buy a house together.

Georgina wanted a place that was on the outskirts of Tennant Creek and Jerry wanted a property that was large enough to accommodate horses. They found their home and named it Kelly’s Ranch. And it’s here, at this special place just outside Tennant Creek where Jerry, Georgina and their horses have influenced and shaped lives.

With Georgina’s management skills, Kelly’s Ranch was set up as both a tourist and training facility. For visitors passing through Tennant Creek, Jerry takes them out on horse rides to show them the beautiful and grassy open plains of the Barkly region and also how to find bush tucker. As a training facility, he teaches the local indigenous youth (many are correctional kids) horse and cattle handling so that they could gain employment at cattle stations in the Territory. Jerry is giving them the opportunities that he was given.

“I’ve been with horses since I was six, I’ve never left them. Now I’m training kids to work with horses. What I was taught as a kid, I want to carry that on to other young kids. I can see some of the problems that the kids have and I try to get them out on the stations around the Barkly. I train them here and then send them out”

Jerry is passionate about his role as a mentor. And he firmly believes that by providing these kids with a career pathway through working with horses – it keeps them out trouble.

“I’m teaching the kids to make them feel better so that they don’t have to worry about anything else – not the family, the troubles and not to run when they see someone coming”

In addition to his work at the ranch, Jerry also trains youth at Nyinkka Nyunyu. He teaches them how to make boomerangs, nulla nulla, coolamon and clapping sticks. Jerry teaches them cultural traditions so that certain practices are not lost on future generations.

“The jobs that I’m doing now, I like them and that’s why I’m real happy”

Both Georgina and Jerry are passionate about the Barkly. For Jerry, it’s the only place that he’s ever called home. His connection to horses is as deep as his connection to land.

“I like the landscape, it’s all black soil country and freshwater. I like the animals out here; we have the brolgas, the whistleducks and the black soil goannas. The open plains speak to me better than the desert rocks and mountain country”

And for Georgina, Sydney is but a distant memory, faded out by the brilliant night skies of the Barkly.

“I love walking or riding across desert country, being able to have adventures and experiences that few would dream of. For me, I love the wide open spaces, beautiful night skies, the outback characters and the relationship of people to land and land to people is endlessly inspiring”


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