The Australian Agricultural Company (AACo) is Australia’s oldest continuous company. It was established in 1824 through an Act of British Parliament for the purpose of improving flocks of Merino sheep.1 In 1825, the British Government offered cheap convict labour and one million acres of land to the new company.2
Tahlee, on Port Stephens, was the site selected by the company’s first Commissioner, Robert Dawson. Dawson’s job included surveying the land, building accommodation and settling workers, making friends with the local Aboriginal population, establishing infrastructure for a European community and then farming the land to make a profit for the company.3
By June 1826 headquarters had been established, including historic Tahlee House which was occupied by the first four commissioners: Robert Dawson, Sir Edward Parry, Henry Dumaresq and Philip Parker King. Adjacent Carrington was the site of spacious stores, workshops, accommodation and later a church.4 By the 1830s it was realised that the Port Stephens’ grant was unsuitable for farming and by 1851 the AACo had moved its headquarters to Stroud.5
The company left its mark in this quiet pocket of the MidCoast with the recent discovery of the Old AACo Road and No. 1 Farm.6 State heritage listed Tahlee House, although rebuilt in the 1860s after a fire, has an original stone wall and the grounds include a convict-built boat harbour, well and observatory.7
Today the AACo owns around 7 million hectares of land in Queensland and the Northern Territory and focuses on producing premium beef products.8
1State Library of NSW, Australian agricultural and rural lifehttp://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/stories/australian-agricultural-and-rural-life/australian-agricultural-company
2 David Benson, A walk along the old AACo Road: from Karuah to Tahlee, (Karuah Progress Association Inc: 2015).
5 Stroud & District Historical Society Association Inc, Our History – History of Stroudhttp://www.stroudhistoricalsociety.com/strouds-history
6 David Benson, A walk along the old AACo Road: from Karuah to Tahlee, (Karuah Progress Association Inc: 2015).
7 Great Lakes Local Environmental Plan 2014 [NSW], Tahlee House Estate group, Carrington.
8 AACo the art of Australian Beef, Our History, https://aaco.com.au/about-us/our-history
9 Photo taken by J Roberts, July 2018. Buttons worn by servants of the AACo, found at Giro, NSW.