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The rise and fall of Australia’s last great tobacco town

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Dilapidated drying sheds and previous photographs of sun-damaged farmers smoking hand-rolled cigarettes are virtually all that is still of Australia’s long-dead tobacco increase.

Within the mid-Twentieth century, tobacco was massive enterprise within the Queensland city of Texas, 300 kilometres south-west of Brisbane.

The business was constructed by waves of migrants, corresponding to Chinese language employees left idle after the gold rush and Italian prisoners of battle turned sun-burnt share farmers.

The lure of Texas “gold leaf” tobacco was sturdy.

Chinese language gold hunters

Texas tobacco manufacturing started within the 1870s when Chinese language males have been employed on Texas Station to develop the crop for native use.

“They have been employed as a result of they’d grown their very own tobacco earlier than, so you utilize someone who can already develop one thing as a substitute of reinventing the wheel,” Ms Griffin mentioned.

Chinese tobacco farmers
Chinese language farmers grew the primary tobacco crops alongside the banks of the Dumaresq River.(Equipped: Texas Museum)

“Loads of it could’ve been for their very own use and different folks round, like stockmen who used to love to have a smoke.

“Smoking had change into fairly trendy, and they’d’ve additionally offered a few of it to producers.”

A lot of the area’s tobacco grew within the Dumaresq Valley, beside the Dumaresq River.

Tobacco, being a thirsty plant, required common irrigation.

Whole tobacco crops have been sown, cultivated and harvested by hand with back-breaking work in Queensland’s formidable summer season warmth.

Ms Griffin mentioned many Chinese language tobacco farmers finally died, and their households moved away from Texas.

Historic photo
Tobacco costs sharply rose within the Nineteen Thirties, attracting many Italian households to Texas.(ABC Southern Queensland: Jon Daly)

The Italian POWs

The Nineteen Thirties was the excessive watermark of Australian tobacco when sturdy home demand and government-mandated quotas of native leaf in manufacturing drove up costs.

The promise of excellent cash drew Italian migrants to Texas.

“The Italian immigrants have been crucial to the realm. There have been so many small settlements of Italians,” Ms Griffin mentioned.

Round that point, the daddy of Texas native Lucia De Bortoli, Guerino Canto arrived from Italy to search out work and supply for his giant household in the course of the Nice Melancholy.

When World Battle II started, Mr Canto and lots of of his compatriots have been imprisoned for a number of years.

Lucia composite
Lucia De Bortoli arrived in Texas in 1950 and labored within the tobacco fields.(ABC Southern Queensland: Jon Daly)

As soon as launched, he headed to Texas to develop tobacco to earn cash to deliver the remainder of his household to Australia, but it surely was not straightforward.

In 1950, at 13 years previous, Ms De Bortoli arrived in Texas, and her father despatched her straight to the sector to choose tobacco.

“It was arduous work,” she mentioned.

“While you choose tobacco, the nicotine remains to be recent, and it sticks to you, and it is darkish. It is like chewing gum.”

Ms De Bortoli and her husband, Don De Bortoli, continued to develop tobacco on their household farm till the business collapsed.

Tobacco tins
Australia’s tobacco business was deregulated within the mid-Nineteen Nineties.(ABC Southern Queensland: Jon Daly)

Tobacco business collapse

The Australian tobacco business was deregulated within the Nineteen Nineties and collapsed quickly after.

An business evaluation of the day discovered tobacco was by far probably the most subsidised agricultural exercise in Australia, receiving 12-times extra help than the typical for all agricultural actions.

The market slowly deregulated, and native leaf quotas on producers and tariffs on cheaper imported tobacco have been eliminated.

Mr De Bortoli mentioned the business slowly folded as authorities assist dried up.

“It simply died out. We offered our quotas to Mareeba just some years earlier than it died,” he mentioned.

Don De Bortoli
Tobacco farmer Don De Bortoli was paid by the federal government to cease rising tobacco within the Nineteen Nineties.(ABC Southern Queensland: Jon Daly)

State and federal governments created so-called “exit grants” to assist tobacco farmers go away the business.

“The federal government did not’ need us to develop anymore,” Mr De Bortoli mentioned.

“On the finish, within the final two years, they paid me to not develop tobacco.”

Cotton and cattle changed tobacco crops within the Dumaresq Valley.

Texas’ tobacco historical past lives on in the recollections of these migrant households, and the black-and-white photographs and relics held in a tin shed on the native museum.

“We’re wholesome and, I do not assume I would prefer to reside every other place,” Ms De Bortoli mentioned.

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