Colin Brett Obituary, Death- Outpourings of condolences are flowing across northern Australia today following the loss of respected northern territory cattleman Colin Brett who passed away yesterday, aged 83.
People won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel, a popular saying goes, one that seems particularly apt today. The smiling face of Colin Brett and the uplifting presence he emanated left a lasting mark on all who knew him. A true gentleman, eternally optimistic and positive, a smile that energized everyone he met, and importantly gave strength to others, even in the darkest of times, are among the many of Mr. Brett’s characteristics being remembered today.
Mr Brett and his wife Alison experienced the agony of enormous loss, losing their son Dougal in a helicopter accident in 2015. Their property Waterloo Station was also front and center of the fallout of the Federal Government’s ill-considered, and later proven to be illegal, the decision to suddenly halt the live cattle trade to Indonesia just as the northern export season was reaching full swing in June 2011. The decision “cut the industry off at the knees”, Mr. Brett told Beef Central at the time.
“We can’t understand why the Government has done this to us, there are no other outlets other than the store market and this is a great trade for both countries,” he said. “It employs a lot of people in Indonesia and it is a protein source for them. “It is something our country gains from and they gain from, we have a great relationship with them, but I don’t know what they think of us now.”
After owning properties in New South Wales and Queensland, Colin and Alison Brett and their sons Dougal and Hamish and their families bought the 243,000-ha Waterloo Station, in the Victoria River District in 2004 before adding the 171,000-ha Willeroo Station, 116km from Katherine, bought from Gina Rinehart, in 2021. With Alison, Mr Brett took a great interest in industry affairs and regularly attended cattle events including the Ekka and Beef Australia expos.
The impact of his loss on his many friends is being reflected in accumulating online tributes on social media. Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association CEO Will Evans has assembled the below tributes from across the industry which help to convey the warmth and esteem in which Mr Brett was widely held: “When we had to get out of the trenches – the Brett Family were the first ones over the top” said Tom Stockwell of Sunday Creek Station and President of NTCA during the beginning days of the Brett Cattle Case class action. “Colin will be fondly remembered and sadly missed.”
Luke Bowen, Cattle Australia CEO, and was also CEO of the NTCA during the 2011 live export ban, passed on his condolences to the family, “Colin was a man who exuded positivity and support for our industry, our people and those doing it tough. Through the most difficult times for his family, with industry and community in crisis, his quiet strength and care gave hope and resolve to go on gave all of us the strength to fight back.” “A remarkable man and a true gentleman. For an unwavering, beautiful lifetime, he and Alison were inseparable partners. Our heartfelt sympathies and prayers go out to you and your family. Our industry will never forget.”
Adam Giles, CEO of Hancock Agriculture and Kidman and Co, who was the Northern Territory Chief Minister when the class action was launched in 2014, offered similar comments, “In the wake of 2011 the Brett Family took up the fight not just for the pastoral industry but people from all walks of life from across the Territory. Their contribution has been enormous and will be long remembered. Colin was a true gentleman of the north and his loss will be felt by many. My thoughts are will his family today and I send my condolences to them all.”
Ian McBean of Bonalbo Station and Life Member of the NTCA recalled meeting Colin and his family when they first came to the Territory, “I was sorry to hear of the passing of Colin Brett. He was a well-known cattleman from in the VRD region for many years. I was fortunate to meet Colin and his member as members of the NTCA and throughout his involvement in industry. His contribution to the live cattle ban class action was invaluable.”
Tracey Hayes, Chair of the Federation Board for the Royal Flying Doctor’s Service, former CEO of the NTCA and class action co-ordinator for the Brett Cattle Case spoke to Colin’s commitment to his family, “Colin and Alison have had much to be proud of in their lives together and their accomplishments are plane for anyone to see. But it was their partnership together that will stay with me most. They were a true match for one another and gave each other great strength. I know how tough this will be for the family and I offer them my condolences”.
Terry Underwood OAM, the life Member of the NTCA, reflected on Colin’s strength in coming to the Territory and building Waterloo Station to what it is today, “Colin was of the old brigade. He and his family worked hard to own and manage one of the few remaining privately owned cattle stations, amidst the ever-expanding corporate giants and landowners.”
“The Brett Family, with Colin at the helm, took on the Australian Government as leaders of in the Class Action against the live export suspension in 2011. Their fearlessness and truth stood our industry in good sted. Their victory was a win for all of us. My family and I attended the funeral of Dougal Brett, Colin’s son, in Kununurra on 24th June 2015. We send love, support and understanding to the Brett Family as Father and Son reunite.” “Our gratitude and respect for Colin is immeasurable.”
Colin’s contribution to the industry extends far beyond his time in the Territory. Prior to purchasing Waterloo in 2004, the family had properties in Queensland and New South Wales. Throughout his life, Colin was a proud supporter of the Sydney Royal Easter Show. Rob Vickery, of Bective Station Tamworth and President of the Sydney Royal Easter Show (2004-2009) knew Col for more than 50 years. “I want to offer my sincere condolences to the Brett family today. Colin had a long and proud association with the RAS Cattle Show for many years and was a great supporter of people and his district. He will be sadly missed.”