Legends of the Jump – Peter Severin

Curtin Springs, the roadhouse that is the gateway to Yulara, could easily appear on our maps as Stalin Springs. That was the name given to the place by Abraham Andrew when he took up cattle country in the region in 1943. Abe Andrew was of firm socialist persuasion and the communist dictator, Joseph Stalin was a more fashionable and acceptable figure in those war years than earlier or later.  However, Andrew realized that Stalin Springs was perhaps not entirely suitable as a name for his new station so it was changed to Curtin Springs to honor the Australian Labor man and wartime Prime Minister.

Abraham Andrew had been born in South Australia in 1877.  He came to Central Australia with his family in 1935 hoping to find work and eventually settle on the land.  He got work at Henbury Station where one of his first tasks was to lay corduroy (a lacework of logs and saplings) over the Finke River Crossing near Henbury Homestead.  He undertook other bush work and then, sometime after 1937, the family moved to vacant country located between Tempe Downs and Angas Downs.  They called this area Andaloo.

From 1940 Abe and his son, Merv, built Glen Helen homestead for Bryan Bowman.  This became the nucleus of the Glen Helen resort.

In 1943/44 the Andrew family moved to the country that became Curtin Springs.

The family battled very hard at their new station. They could see a gradual increase in tourist traffic past their homestead and they hoped to share in the fruits of the Centre’s new industry. From 1954, tourists were able to fly to Curtin Springs, then the closest airstrip to Ayers Rock, and then proceed by road.

However, circumstances were very difficult for the Andrew family and the remote station. By 1958 they were unable to carry on and Curtin Springs was sold by them to the brother’s Peter and Rollo Severin. Subsequently, Peter bought out Rollo’s share of the station.

Peter Severin, with his wife Dawn and three-year-old son Ashley, soon found that they had acquired Curtin Springs just as the worst drought in the history of the Centre was about to begin. As the drought intensified, the Severins turned increasingly to providing services for the travelers who were passing their homestead in steadily growing numbers. But it was a slow start. ‘We saw six people in the first year’ Peter laughed, much later. He could laugh then, but it was much harder in those first years!

From 1958, Peter and Rollo took on contract plumbing and building work at the newly developing accommodation facilities at Ayers Rock, as well as grading the first airstrip there.

At the same time, the access road to Ayers Rock was upgraded by the creation of a new route from Erldunda via Mt. Ebenezer, Angas Downs, and Curtin Springs. This soon became the most used access route. However, the absence of fuel supplies was a difficulty for motorists. The Severins met the need by supplying fuel at Curtin Springs. At the same time, they opened a small store.

Revenue from this source enabled the family to gradually develop the Curtin Springs roadhouse, beginning with camping facilities for Len Tuit’s tour groups.

By 1962 the drought had worsened and the Severins realized that they would have to pull a rabbit out of the hat if they were to survive at Curtin Springs. Tourism was the rabbit and from thenceforth the Severins made a wholehearted commitment to the development of the roadhouse.

The Severins played a vital part in the development of tourism at what is now Yulara. They provided essential supplies, including a friendly smile, a joke or two, and a taste of the outback for the benefit of travelers on what was a long, anxious, corrugated, and dusty road. And when motorists got into trouble, as they inevitably did, Peter was ready and more than capable of helping.

So the Curtin Springs roadhouse and its operators became an institution. Without them, tourism to our most significant attraction would not have developed so far or so fast.

Peter Severin’s contribution to both the tourism and pastoral industries in Central Australia cannot be understated.  For many of us, he is considered a Legend.

He was someone that most knew and many loved. Most of us have sat at his table and enjoyed his hospitality.  Many of us have been rescued and repaired by his generosity.

Peter was a man who enjoyed his life and the life he could share with others.

Peter was honorable, but he was also irreverent. Peter is survived by his only son, Ashley, who still operates Curtin Springs today.

Peter Forrest