HerStory

Molly CLARK

Born: 28 December 1922

Died: 22 September 2012

Special Achievements:

Pioneer pastoralist of Northern Territory, at Andado Station and then Old Andado Station.  

Pioneer of the Central Australian tourism industry

Founder of National Pioneer Women's' Hall of Fame.

Additional Information:

Molly Clark was a nurse, entrepreneur, pastoralist, tourism operator, Patron and Founder of the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame.

Born and raised in Mount Barker in South Australia, Molly commenced a nursing career but had to resign due to contracting tuberculosis. She went on to gain a position as governess at Mungeranie Station on the Birdsville Track, in northeastern South Australia. where she met Malcolm (Mac) Clark and married him in 1946. They soon had three sons, the young family worked on grazing properties between Broken Hill, Birdsville and Tennant Creek.

In 1955 the Clarks arrived at the 3,410 square kilometre station at Andado, around 330 kilometres south-east of Alice Springs. They lived in the original 1920’s homestead for the first few years.

EARLY DAYS AT ANDADO

Imagine living in a flood prone house with three young boys, no enclosed verandahs, no windows, no fly screens, and no doors where summer temperatures frequently rose to over 50 degrees Celsius with ant plagues, hundreds of thousands of flies, snakes and other creepy crawlies to deal with.

There was no plumbing to the old homestead; water had to be carried to the kitchen, bathroom and laundry area from the river. So they relocated to a new homestead 18 km away.

Kerosene lanterns were the source of light, kerosene powered fridges kept food from spoiling and the wood stove cooked food and boiled water.

There was no way of communication initially apart from the camel drawn mail cart which would have only come by every couple of months between the 1890’s and 1930’s. In the 1930’s the radio telephone was invented by Alf Traeger for the Flying Doctor Service and fast became an essential communication tool for the isolated station people. Molly was still using the radio telephone well into the 1980’s until a satellite phone tower was installed.

Before roads were graded, the only way into Old Andado was via Kulgera and Finke following a set of tyre tracks. A 14-hour journey from Alice Springs. In the 1970’s Molly herself carved a track from Old Andado to Allambi, Santa Teresa and Alice Springs shaving six hours off the trip into Alice Springs.

DEVELOPING TOURISM DESPITE TERRIBLE SETBACKS

The old homestead was left to fall down, but in 1969 Molly decided to resurrect it and turn it into a home-stay operation for alternative income during drought years. The project took almost 20 years to fulfill during which time she physically worked on getting the building and surrounding area habitable. In the 1970’s a generator took over the job of supplying power.

The 1970's witnessed a catalogue of personal crises: one son had a life-threatening accident; Molly's husband suffered a fatal heart attack after crash landing his light aircraft; and her eldest son was killed by a freight train whilst driving his prime mover across a railway line at night.

By the end of the decade, Molly lost her livelihood from cattle, when the Northern Territory government were forced to destroy all her stock following a brucellosis scare.

Molly continued to work on her tourist venture – one of the first of its kind – at Old Andado, which became her home.

From the mid-1990's, she welcomed guests into her 1922 corrugated iron and timber home, set among alternate landscapes of flat gibber desert and giant sand dunes.

In 1993 Old Andado homestead was placed on the NT Heritage Register.

ESTABLISHING A MUSEUM FOR WOMEN'S HISTORY

In 1993, Molly and supporters in Alice Springs established the National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame. In the late 1980’s, Molly had visited the Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach, Queensland and, in response, felt the need to establish a museum dedicated to commemorating the contribution and achievements of Australian women. In her own words;

I was sick of seeing women forgotten while the men got all the praise. I was backing my husband and I knew hundreds of other women who’d backed theirs all the way through but you never heard what Mrs So-and-so did, it was only what Mr So-and-so did. Well, Mr So-and-so could not have done it without the backing of his wife…My dream is just to see that women were recognised.

Molly became Founder and Patron of the organisation, networking, fundraising and supporting it from the launch celebration at Old Andado, its first home in the Old Alice Springs Courthouse to the current location in in 2007. She was actively engaged in all areas of its operation until her death in 2012.

AWARDS

1995: Northern Territory Tourist Commission Brolga Award 1998: NT Chief Minister's Women's Achievements Award 1999: Commonwealth Recognition Award for Senior Australians in the Northern Territory Electorate

We hold an extensive archive on the life of Molly Clark and welcome research projects.


Resources

  • Image - Molly Clark

    Molly Clark at Old Andado Station

    Image courtesy of Barry Skipsey.


  • References

    Brown, Shirley and Historical Society of the Northern Territory. (1998). Chatting with Centralians: a recorded history of thirty Centralians. Casuarina, Darwin, Northern Territory: Historical Society of the Northern Territory. "The lives of 30 Centralians and their contributions to the growth of the Northern Territory" -- cover.

    Story and interview from ABC Alice Springs. "Vale Molly Clark - a pioneering woman of the Outback".


  • Audio - Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives: First in their Field -- Molly Clark

    This audio profile of Molly Clark was produced in 2015 by 8CCC 102.1FM community radio station and the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame. To hear more of the Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Lives: First in their Field series, please go to http://8ccc.com.au/category/ordinary-women-extraordinary-lives/.


  • Video - Ordinary Women; Extraordinary Lives Molly Clark

    Molly Clark was the founder of the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame in 1993. She lived an extraordinary life which this feature is dedicated to. This feature was made by 8CCC 102.1FM community radio station and the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame.

    8CCC 102.1FM community radio station and the National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame