Goat Carts

Goat Carts

Goats played an important role in the early history of Queensland. Arriving in Australia on the First Fleet, goats spread across the country with European settlement. Serving as a handy source of meat, milk, and transportation, they thrived in the harsh Australian landscape and were often financially viable for those who could not afford cattle. In Townsville, goats were so ubiquitous by the mid to late-nineteenth century that they were a well-known nuisance, with the council making attempts to control the population.

Gulf of Carpentaria District – Goat Racing in Croydon, 1912

At the beginning of the twentieth century, goat racing (either with a cart or bareback) was a popular pastime, appearing at school sports days, shows, and celebrations. Goat carts (generally large enough to seat one or two children) were also part of everyday life, being used for leisure and to help children perform chores or paid work such as hauling firewood.

During the 1920s, professional races were held regularly in Brisbane, Rockhampton, and Townsville. Rockhampton’s races could attract thousands of spectators. In 1927, a goat race along Quay Street was planned to celebrate a visit by the opera singer Dame Nellie Melba, although it was cancelled by the police due to its effect on the traffic. During the same year, a selection of Rockhampton goats and the boys who raced them appeared in the silent film The Kid Stakes.

Goat racing was also very popular in western Queensland, serving as a fixture of sports days and celebrations in Barcaldine, where goat ownership was nearly universal. While the popularity of goat-racing peaked in the 1920s, it was occurring in Barcaldine into at least the 1970s. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, goat-racing had disappeared from the area. Recently, goat racing has been enjoying a minor revival. In 2008, it was revived in Barcaldine, with the lawyer and former goat-racer John de Groot funding a goat race with a $1000 prize. The town now hosts annual goat races and is, according to the president of the Barcaldine Goat Racing Committee, ‘the goat racing capital of Australia’.


Note children with goats in foreground. One goat harnessed.



  1. John Brady. “The Kid Stakes.” National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (https://www.nfsa.gov.au/latest/kid-stakes).
  2. Kathleen Calderwood. “Goat Races Prove to be a Crowd Pleaser in Central Queensland.” ABC News, 10th June 2014 (https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2014-06-09/qch-goat-races/5509852).
  3. Trisha Fielding. “Goats in Townsville.” North Queensland History, 24th May 2014 (https://northqueenslandhistory.blogspot.com/2014/05/goats-were-once-common-everyday-sight.html).
  4. “‘Goat Capital’ Gets Real Boost.” The Queensland Times, 13th July 2012.
  5. Moya Sharp. “Billy Goat Racing: An Excellent Sport.” Outback Family History, 17th April 2016 (https://www.outbackfamilyhistoryblog.com/2016/04/17/billy-goat-racing-excellent-sport/).
  6. Alison Walsh. “Goat Racing Back on Track.” The Courier Mail, 14th September 2013 (https://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/qweekend-goat-racing-back-on-track/news-story/fa1d9cb97efe2285765464155d8376f4).

QLD Day Dinner 2019

QLD Day Dinner 2019
Possession Island

Possession Island

This plaque, from Possession Island off the tip of Cape York, commemorated Captain James Cook’s claiming of the “whole eastern coast of Australia from the Latitude of 38 degrees south” (from near Melbourne north to Cape York) in the name of the British king.

The British believed that Australia was terra nullius (empty land) whereas, in fact, human habitation of the Australian continent is estimated to have begun around 65,000 to 70,000 years ago. People migrated by land bridges and short sea-crossings from what is now South-East Asia. These first inhabitants were the ancestors of modern Indigenous Australians. Aboriginal Australian culture is one of the oldest continual civilisations on earth – human habitation of the Australian continent is estimated to have begun around 65,000 years ago.

The first recorded European sighting of the Australian mainland is attributed to the Dutch. The first ship to chart the Australian coast was the Duyfken captained by Willem Janszoon in 1606. The Dutch charted the whole of the western and northern coastlines during the 17th century and named the island continent “New Holland“.

Later in 1606, Spanish explorer Luís Vaz de Torres sailed through, and navigated, the Torres Strait islands.

Next, William Dampier, an English explorer and privateer, landed on the north-west coast of New Holland in 1688 and again in 1699 on a return trip.

Then in 1770, Captain James Cook sailed along and mapped the east coast, which he named New South Wales and claimed for Great Britain. Cook named the tiny island off the tip of Cape York Possession Island on 22 August 1770.

In 1992 Mer (or Murray) Islander Eddie ‘Koiki’ Mabo began a fight to change Australian laws because he believed the land belonged to the Torres Strait Islanders who had lived there for thousands of years. The Mabo case ran in the High Court of Australia for over ten years.

On 3 June 1992, the High Court ruled that “terra nullius” should never have been applied to Australia. The “Mabo ruling”  found that the Mer people had owned their land prior to annexation by Britain.

Native title is the legal recognition that some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have rights to, and interest in, certain land because of their traditional laws and customs.