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Elizabeth MILNES

Also known as: née Hayes, Lizzie

Born: 18 July 1911

Died: April 1999

Special Achievements:

1911 & 1932 - First white woman to be both born and married in Alice Springs.
1972 - First woman to own a Northern Territory cattle station, which she owned for 35 years.
1999 - Awarded Order of Australia for services to pioneering and facilitating the development and infrastructure of Alice Springs, Northern Territory.


  • Image - The well on the block once the home of Lizzie Milnes in Bath Street, Alice Springs, now protected by the National Trust.

    from NPWHF Lizzie MILNES file

    National Pioneer Women's Hall of Fame

  • References

    Pioneer Lizzie Milnes, 87, dies at home. Centralian Advocate. April 20, 1999:4.

    Ferrie, Nicole. New store plan for Milnes site. Centralian Advocate. February 11, 2000:2.

    Chlanda, Erwin. This could have been a treasure. Alice Springs News. February 9, 2000:3.

    Territory Stories. "Debates Day", pp. 3210-3211.

    Central Station. "The Hayes Family".

    Territory Stories. “Women deserve praise for their achievements”. Centralian Advocate. March 5, 2013:18. accessed 9 October 2020.

  • References

    James, Wendy et al. (1991). Northern Territory Women’s Register 1948-1988, second edition. NT Women's Advisory Council.

    "Lizzy Milnes' grandparents came to Alice Springs in May 1884 to work for Sir Thomas Elder, the foundation member of Elder-Smiths, now known as Elders Pastoral. Her parents --- Ma and Pa Hayes, as they were known --- owned Undoolya Station where the family grew up and studied by correspondence. The children's lessons came from Adelaide by train to Oodnadatta and then by camel mail to Alice Springs where they were delivered to the Telegraph Station once a fortnight.
    Lizzy remembered that the only obstacles were those of living in a harsh environment and these conditions were shared by the entire family and accepted as "just part of growing up in Alice Springs." People made their own entertainment, getting together and enjoying themselves every Sunday with the local Alice Springs band. The isolation had its risks as well. When Lizzy developed appendicitis in 1927 there was no doctor at the Australian Inland Mission (AIM) where she was taken for a diagnosis. She had to travel by car to Oodnadatta and then by train which took three days to get to Adelaide before her appendix was removed at the Adelaide Memorial Hospital.
    When Lizzy married Arthur Milnes in 1931 at the old courthouse she was the first white woman to be both born and married in Alice Springs. In the 1960s Lizzy and her sister, Jane, took over Owen Springs Station, one of the Territory's oldest properties, when their parents died.
    After her husband's death Lizzy bought her sister's half-share in Owen Springs Station in 1972. This made her the only sole owner and, as far as she knew, the only woman owner of a Northern Territory cattle station. At the time the station was suffering from a drought and cattle prices were very poor. In 1988, the 1,200 square mile property ran 5,000 head and, Lizzy proudly boasted, it was a very well-equipped, neat and tidy station.
    Although Owen Springs was still subject to the vagaries of the weather, Lizzy said that thousands had been spent on the station and it had thirty well-equipped bores. Although she now had a manager on the station, she said that absolutely nothing was done without consulting her and getting her permission first. Lizzy was a woman with a lot of fight in her and had been through drought before and come out a winner, so she was determined to make it work. She was proud to have survived in this harsh environment, in a particularly dominated 'man's world'."

  • Document - Land Resources of the Eastern Portion of Owen Springs Station - Pastoral lease NT Por. 1406

    Land Resource Assessment of Owen Springs Station, p. 5

    Northern Territory Government, Natural System Division

    View File