Current Operation

  • Closed. Built 1970’s


  • Inside Kakadu National park. 250km E of Darwin

Map. Mudginberri. jpg


  • Jay Pendarvis8
    • John David Pendarvis (09/09/1932 – 02/01/2004).9


  • Workers mainly itinerant and worked in dry season only.
  • Workers were not contracted directly to Jay Pendarvis but through 3 contractors
  • Intended to process large number of feral buffalo, particularly when BTEC in operation.



  • Government offered contracts to catch Buffalo out of the South Alligator area (Kakadu National park) (Pg 163)8
    • All animals caught around South Alligator, East Alligator, Swamps of Canon Hill and Magilla creek went to Mudginberri. (Pg 164).8
    • Mangilla swamp – 1000 buffalo caught – within an area of 10 kilometres from abattoir. (Pg 164)8
    • All buffalo caught were carted to Mudginberri meatworks – Jay Pandarvis manager at the time (Pg 163)8
  • From 1974 to 1977 Mudginberri and Jimmey’s Creek abattoirs were the only 2 export abattoirs licenced to export to West Germany (EU).9
    • A west German, Australian Veterinarian and a DPI meat inspector were on site.9
  • Jay Pandaris is reported to have developed the first portable cattle panel that was used in mustering.9

Insert photo of current red panels that are based on similar type of Jay Pandaris’s.

Photo – G. Beere. Mudginberri abattoir, unloading buffalo. Unknown date.


  • Geoffrey Beere is manager of the facility at this time.9
    • “We were excited to be part of a system that was paid on kilograms into a carton and when we finished loading the 20 tonne reefers and the DPI seals were placed on the doors, the cheque was in the bank account” G. Beere (Manger).9

Photo. G. Beere. Mudginberri. Extract of a personal letter sent to G Beeres from Jay Pendarvis. 24/04/1975

    • “I was very proud, years later when I learnt that a Brisbane Export Boning room adopted what they called the Mudginberri system” G Beere. (Manager).9
    • 6c was paid per pound x 5 workers (In cartooned 64 lb export boxes.9
  • All workers at the time were financial members of the AIEMU.9

Photo. G Beere. Mudginberri. Unknown date.

Photo. G. Beere. Mudginberri. Wayne Finn. Unknown date.


  • Geoffrey Beere is manager of the facility at this time.9


  • 1983-85 AMIEU dispute symbolised the fundamental crisis facing Australia in 1985 as there was sharply declining prosperity within Meatworks due to poor productivity and trade-union intransigence4. Pg 49
  • AMIEU served log of claims to set up tally system at Mudginberri (M) as it was operating under its own agreements with workers.


Note on Tally system.

Tally system was work place arrangement prior to 1995 – Plant operated on single shift, Kill / Slaughter quota, when quota for day reached slaughter of animals was stopped6.

Normal operation was start 6am end 2pm

Enterprise Bargaining Agreements (EBA’s) introduced – Previously tally system has set rates of pay and also rate of productivity. Any new investment in efficiency meant workers just reached minimum tally in a shorter time. Tally system removed, increased production levels3.

EBA allowed multiple shifts, reduced penalties and shift loads, longer working days and increased pay rates. 30-40% increase in effective capacity. Lead to 40% reduction in unit costs3.


  •  Australian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU) set up picket line outside Mudginberri.10
    • AMIEU claim that all employees should be paid under a wages system known as the tally system.10
  • Mudginberri at the time didn’t employ labour directly. They engaged contractors who in turn hired men to carry out the work. These workers were on individual contracts.10
    • This is 2 decades before the era of Work Choices and Australian Workplace agreements.10
  • July. Mudginberri management won court orders and the picket line was disbanded.10
  • The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission made an award that didn’t adopt the tally system but included a provision enabling the use, on certain conditions, of a system of payment by results.10
    • Workers accepted this award but AMIEU rejected it.10
      • AMIEU reneged on an earlier undertaking to abide by the commissions decision and re-established a picket line.10


  • May. Union workers from Katherine abattoir and others picketed Mudginberri starting 9th May, lasting 4 months. Actual workers at Mudginberri didn’t participate.
  • ACTU at this time endorsed AMIEU
  • Government meat inspectors refused to cross the picket line, for fear of being fired.
    • Production at Mudginberri stopped and didn’t resume until 24 June.
    • Only NT government inspectors were authorised to enter the facility which meant the meat was only allowed for domestic consumption, which was  ½ price earnings of export.
  • AMIEU refused to lift picket and were fined, AMIEU assets were frozen – All Australian meatworkers went on strike, reportedly 20,000 people. Then included maritime and transport workers strikes in support
  • Mudginberri was member of NTCA who are members of National Farmers Federation (NFF)
  • NFF sponsored Pendarvis legal actions.
    • NFF built a $10M fighting fund.10
    • Pushed for changed in the Industrial relations system.10
      • Mudginberri sought to establish a right for employer and employee to negotiate terms and conditions which best met the particular nature of an abattoir’s operation.11
  • NT gov guaranteed $2M loan to abattoir on condition would sue AMIEU
  • Mudginberri was the first time the Trade Practices Act was used successfully against a trade union.10
  • Full arbitration commission allowed the contract system but also stated decision was only applicable in the NT
  • 27 court cases, 2 years litigation.
    • Jay Pendarvis awarded $1 759 444 damages
    • Huge personal toll to Jay Pendarvis, 21 days of intense cross examination during the damages action.10
  • Robert Bright who owns Batchalor abattoir (NT) buys Mudginberri (pg 248)8
    • ran on terms of kill one day, bone the next (Pg 249)8
    • Only needed one crew,8
    • workers applied for jobs and half selected8
    • working crew went on strike in sympathy for others not selected.8
    • Bright gave choice to had been originally cut out if they wanted to replace the first picks, they did and stayed until closure (Pg 249)8
  • Foreman at Mudginberri at the time – Tom Turnbull (pg 249)8
  • John David Pendarvis (Jay Pendarvis)  is named 1985 Australian Newspaper – Australian of the Year.9


  • The Mudginberri case (1986) set a major precedent for law – Secondary or indirect boycotts – Anti competitive conduct – ss 45D-45E

The Mudginberri Case (1986) AMIEU v’s Mudginberri station Pty Ltd (1986) 161 CLR 98.

Finding by court – A union carried out a secondary boycott by stopping another union from providing services to a ‘target’ corporation.

AMIEU blockaded Mudginberri station after it refused to pay workers the AMIEU pay rates. Meat inspectors who belonged to another union refused to cross the picket line which meant the Mudginberri meat couldn’t be approved for export.

Federal court held – That AMIEU was engaged in an illegal secondary boycott. Court granted injunction to stop the blockade

The union ultimately paid nearly $2M in damages and fines of $2000 per day for each day the picket remained after the injunction was granted.5


  • Mudginberri closed down, it was the  last of the Alligator River abattoirs to be closed



  • Jay Pendarvis passes away. Special permission is gained from Aboriginal elders for Jay Pendarvis’s ashes to be spread over Mudginberri Billabong.9
  • A memorial for Jay Pendarvis is installed at a cemetary site on Mudginberri.9

Photo. G. Beere. Mudginberri. Memorial of Jay Pendarvis.


image. 03.06.13.Source –

Mudginberri abattoir – Abandoned

M. Outside.Source –

Mudginberri -InsideSource –

Inside the disused Mudginberri abattoir. The animal entered the kill box on the left, when slaughtered hang chain progressed to rear of shed.

Special Mention – The site has some of the most beautiful scenic and wildlife shots of the Northern Territory I have ever seen. it is well worth a view.


  1. Mudginberri revisted: a case study of a secondary boycott. Green Left. 16.01.13
  2. Mudginberri dispute. Wikipedia 16.01.13
  3. Savannah Responses to Feral Buffalo in Kakadu National park
  4. ‘Australian Livestock Export Trade’ Nigel Austin 2011
  5. ‘Australian Business Law’ 7th Edition. Vickery/Flood 2012.
  6. Competition and Exit in Meat Processing:A QLD Case Study. Agribusiness review 1999
  7. References with their articles (Rolfe 1988),(Reynolds and Sangster 1998b)
  8. ‘The privileged few’ Jeff Hill 2008
  9. Geoffrey Beere. Personal Communication. 23.10.2017.
  10. Price for all when union power met its equal. 12.06.2014.
  11. Robb Lib-Goldstein Maiden Speech. 29.11.2004.

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