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From a vet in Donald to ‘the father of self-government’ in the NT

From a vet in Donald to ‘the father of self-government’ in the NT

Some folks work with crocodiles, some write books, and some have helped the Northern Territory gain self-governance.

Key points:

  • Goff Letts was born in Donald, in the Wimmera, in 1928
  • He went on to develop to be a vet, then a high-profile politician
  • Letts says he wrote his memoir, The place Brolgas Dance, so that history would no longer be forgotten

Nonetheless handiest Goff Letts has accomplished all three.

Early Newspaper

Born in Donald in 1928, Letts has told his lifestyles story in a recent memoir, The place Brolgas Dance, to be launched rapidly in Darwin.

The 93-year-conventional describes his childhood in the Wimmera as a happy one.

“I grew up in a pleasing surroundings — the township and district of Donald and surrounding places, was absolutely pleasing, regardless of the Melancholy and then the war,” he says.

An elderly man with glasses in a white jumper holds a copy of his book with a picture of a brolga on the front in a hotel room

Letts with his memoir, The place Brolgas Dance. (

ABC Wimmera: Andrew Kelso 


“I had three pleasing brothers and one became a medical doctor, one became a diplomat serving in overseas posts for Australia and the other’s Robin, who’s editing the Buloke Times.”

Letts would no longer stay in the area eternally, and after gaining a scholarship to Melbourne Grammar he went on to Sydney to further his veterinary career, earlier than getting posted to Leongatha by the Victorian Department of Agriculture.

There he met “the most pleasing particular person” — his significant other Joyce — and they have been together for 70 years.

Moving up 

It was also at the same time as working in Leongatha that Letts encountered a rare livestock disease, pleuropneumonia.

“It was a bit esteem COVID in cattle,” he says.

“The Commonwealth government made up our minds they were going to strive and eradicate this plain disease from Australia, and I was recruited as a member of the veterinary team that was attacking it, and the main heart of attention of the infection was in the Northern Territory so I obtained posted there.

Being a vet led Letts into the field of conservation, particularly around one of the Territory’s most famous animals.

“There was a lot of research being accomplished, particularly on endangered species at that time … but crocodiles were a special case, and they came to the glimpse of the Natural world Advisory Council of which I was the chairman very early in the share, because they were very noteworthy in danger of becoming extinct.”

A man and his children standing outside their house with pet buffalo, Lucky

Letts became a distinguished conservationist in the Northern Territory. (



By way of that role Letts worked alongside Dr Grahame Webb to create a plan of crocodile management which, he says, was among the most effective in the world.

“Our advice was noteworthy sought after by other nations and we made journeys to Africa and South America and you name it, to assist other these that were having similar problems because of overhunting,” Lett says.

“Folks started to examine a recent value in crocodiles; earlier than they’d been the enemy, now they shall be viewed as a friendly beast.”

A ‘greater deal’ for the NT

Letts began his political career in 1970.

“I was getting a bit in awful health of the Canberra bureaucracy and so I resigned and went into private practise and stood as an elected member, and obtained elected,” he says.

“I knew all the all the conventional guys who had been campaigning for a greater deal for the Northern Territory so we succeeded with the assist of Dr Rex Patterson in getting a fully elected assembly for the Northern Territory.”

Prince Charles and Princess Diana on tour in Central Australia, including a trip to Uluru.

Letts became a leading figure in helping the Northern Territory gain self-government.(



Letts was leader of the assembly when Cyclone Tracy tore thru Darwin on Boxing Day, 1974.

He and Joyce had been heading to Donald for his parent’s golden wedding anniversary, and by the time they arrived back in Darwin the city’s vitality and communications had been destroyed, and their son and daughter were both nowhere to be discovered.

“After the third day they obtained the ABC up and running and General [Alan] Stretton obtained in touch with me and said, ‘glance, folks are panicking, they’re rushing to the airport, may well you trail on the wi-fi and ask them to calm down?’

Recording history 

In his recent e-book, Letts hopes to file no longer handiest his personal story, but the events and changes he witnessed.

“I reliable wanted to make certain that some the things which have been forgotten and some of the things which have never been recorded, accumulate achieve down on paper from a historical point of examine,” he says.

The place Brolgas Dance is anticipated to be released in Darwin on July 14 — COVID restrictions permitting.

From a vet in Donald to ‘the father of self-government’ in the NT