As far as the eye can see: The families who own the most of Australia

Five Australian families lay claim to a combined 2.8 per cent of the country -- these power farmers have changed the landscape in their favour.

Which families own the most of Australia? When all their lands are put together, some of Australia’s family businesses own the equivalent to entire countries in square kilometres. Here’s a rundown.


Graphic represents total size of combined properties and approximate comparisons.

Stanbroke Pastoral Company

Stanbroke is the largest privately owned vertically integrated beef business in the world. It was set up by Peter Menegazzo, who was part of a consortium with Hungry Jack’s founder Jack Cowin and Queensland grazier Peter Hughes which bought the Stanbroke Pastoral Company from AMP for $491 million in 2003. At the time it was said to be the largest rural transaction in Australian history.

Eight months after the sale, the consortium split over the management of the properties, and Menegazzo bought out his partners for a rumoured $340 million. On 2 December 2005, Menegazzo and his wife Angela were killed in a light plane crash in New South Wales. Their four children Brendan, Mark, Deborah and David, now operate the business that covers properties in Northern Territory and Queensland stretching across 16,000 square kilometres, not much smaller than Fiji.

Kidman Holdings

The company was founded by legendary cattle king Sir Sidney Kidman in the 1890s. An extraordinary man who left home at the age of 13, he established a coaching business which broke the Cobb & Co monopoly, then sold it and went into cattle. The cattle business remains in family ownership today.
With a herd of 200,000 cattle, the company has pastoral leases covering a whopping 110,000 square kilometres -- the size of Bulgaria. It maintains its position as Australia's largest rural landowner and custodians of the country's third-largest cattle herd. It operates across South Australia, Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Jumbuck

The biggest wool grower in Australia, Jumbuck is one of the country’s largest landowners and is run by the McLachlan family, fourth generation farmers who immigrated to Australia from Scotland in the 1850s. Established in 1888 by Hugh McLachlan, its holdings cover nearly 50,000 square kilometres of land – about the size of Costa Rica -- on which run more than 456,000 head of cattle and 411,000 sheep. It has 12 properties in South Australia, Western Australia and New South Wales.

McDonald Holdings

The company’s properties are spread across 11 cattle stations in Queensland, covering an area of 33,600 square kilometres, an estate larger than the total land mass of Belgium. The company is famous for its 100-day grain-fed beef. The McDonald family’s involvement in agriculture can be traced back to 1827 when the first beef shipments were made to Tasmania. The existing aggregation of properties was established by Jim McDonald, who searched for cattle country around Cloncurry in the 1940s. The family approached land shrewdly, purchasing properties strategically located throughout Queensland to drought-proof the cattle operation.

Western Grazing Company

One of Australia’s largest beef producers, the company started off as a family run dairy business on the Gold Coast before the owner Brian Oxenford moved to inland grazing with the purchase of a sheep station in Muckadilla in Queensland in 1983. Oxenford bought a number of cattle stations from the Vestey family including the Vestey trading name Western Grazing. Properties purchased included Wave Hill and Cattle Creek, the largest holdings which stretch over 12,000 square kilometres -- around the same size as Lebanon.

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