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Corkhill Family

The Corkhill family is one of Canberra’s pioneering families.

Robert Corkhill (1863-1954) arrived in Canberra in 1883 from the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea and took up work at the Campbell estate of Duntroon. In 1893 he married Catherine Rolfe (1867-1952) and moved to a cottage on the banks of the Molonglo River which was located on the current Australian National Library site. Robert and Catherine farmed a small property nearby.

Corkhill's Cottage c1910

Corkhill's Cottage c1910

In 1913 the Commonwealth Government acquired the Duntroon estate to in order to build part of the national capital. As a result the Corkhill family shifted further down river and obtained the lease of the Yarralumla dairy and its surrounding property. The Riverview Group takes its name from the family home on the banks of the Molonglo River. The family farmed the land as graziers, dairy farmers and wheat growers until works commenced on Lake Burley Griffin in 1962.

At the same time, the Corkhill family held a separate lease on land in the Theodore/Calwell area which they used to graze sheep. They were also shareholders in a grazing cooperative with other dairy farmers on land where the National Arboretum sits today.

The Corkhill dairy supplied Canberra with milk for nearly fifty years. Brian Corkhill, a grandson of Robert and Catherine, recalls the family managing three to four milk runs across Canberra each day until the herd was auctioned in 1961.

“As a young boy, living on the dairy farm was an adventure” said Brian Corkhill. “During the winter months we would slide across the frosty paddocks as we would walk the herd into the dairy. In the spring time there was an abundance of milk. My Mother bought a second hand ice-cream maker to make use of the extra milk, but even that couldn’t keep up with the excess.”

Yarralumla Dairy c1915

Yarralumla Dairy c1915

Throughout the generations the Corkhills have practised sustainable farming. Pest control, weed management, prevention of stock disease and land conservation has always been a priority.

“When you make your living from the land you have to look after it”, said Brian Corkhill. “My father and grandfather were always looking for ways to make the land and the animals on the land healthier and more productive. We’ve carried on those principles of sustainability over the years and always looked for ways to minimise the human impact of our businesses on the environment.”

Brian and brother Patrick founded Corkhill Bros in 1954 when the business started with one truck and contracted to local sand pits with their first major jobs being the contruction of the Hume Highway at Gundagai and Scrivener Dam.

Since 1973 the Corkhill Brothers have owned and operated Corkhill Bros Landscaping Supplies from the Mugga Lane recycling plant, a business that turns green waste into compost and mulch.  For the last six years they recycled the soil used at the annual Floriade Flower Exhibition, removing it in October and returning it in March for the next season of flowers.

“I feel privileged to have grown up and made a career here in Canberra”, said Brian Corkhill. “It’s a wonderful community that has given our family a great deal. We’ve always worked hard to make a contribution and I think we’ve done that. Looking back, we’ve employed a lot of people and tried lots of new and interesting things. But it’s the future that is really exciting. Canberra has a very bright future and I look forward to my children and my children’s children continuing to make their contribution for many years to come.”