Cairns (more commonly known as Queerah meatworks) was located in far north QLD received cattle from mainly north Australia, often by Barge from the NT and Normanton that had travelled from the gulf of Carpentaria. Began to export in 1950’s closing in 1989

Number of photographs kindly supplied by the Cairns Historical Society, a museum and library operated by volunteers.

Other names

  •  Queerah

Current Operation

  • Closed 19861
  • Others say 19894

P08210 (2)Source – Cairns Historical Society, 1952. Photo PO8210
The Cairns Meatworks


  • Skelton Creek, Cairns

Australia. Cairns. jpg

Map. Cairns 001Source – Hema Maps. Australia Truckies Atlas.


  • Amagraze. Director Fred Beaver (1962)3
  • AMH


  • Export1
  • Nominal Capacity 110,000hd per 50 weeks1



Queerah 1950.Source Cairns Regional Council. Dated 1950

Queerah Meatworks

  • Begun to export early 1950’s4


  • 1st loading 6th June 1960.Ships – Irene Clauser ,  Inger Clausen – coasters – length of 50m, shallow draft, carry 200-250hd1
  • Clara Clauser – specifically built for Gulf trade, larger but shallower draft of only 1.8m, carry 800-1000hd1
  • Involved in shipping cattle Gulf of Carpentaria around Cape to Cairns, otherwise cattle had to be walked 3500km to east coast, ships took 5 days1
  • Burketown, Karumba & Normanton – shipping from these regions to Bowen and Cairns. Govt paid a 3 pound freight subsidy3
  • Earlier service operated by barge Wewak, owned by Marine contracting and towing company1pg 72

p04059 (2)Source – Cairns Historical society. 1963. PO4059
Winners of the Queerah meatwoeks carcass competition Cairns Show


  • Isla Clauser – replaced Inger Clauser  and Irene Clauser, to be replaced by Ida Clauser3
  • At this time Cairns (Queerah) was most modern meatworks in the southern hemisphere5
    • Had first continuous chain – carcase kept moving along the line, once it started5
  • July. Meatworkers strike5
    • 13 boners including union president had been sacked for go-slow5
    • Industrial commission and Conciliation commission directed men’s re-employment as boners – they were but with union predisent as a trimmer, reducing wage by half5
    • Company refused to give preference to union workers of  AMIEU5
    • Union called stop work. – 41 employees including union president dismissed5
  • 100 graziers moved in to keep works operating – came from Cape York, Gulf, Hughenden, Alpha and Warwick5
    • mainly used to bone due to backlog of meat5
  • Boners earning 60-65 pounds a week, strike wanted 5 more5
  • Strike went for about 10 days5


  • Cairns Harbour board Installed large Freezers at the Number 1 wharf to store meat in cartons for direct loading to the ship4

p04048 (2)Source – Cairns Historical Society. c1970

Loading export meat from the Queerah meatworks at Cairns wharf


  • Ida Clauser supported Gulf trade to about this year3
  • Clara Clauser – larger, shallow draft built specifically to navigate shallow north Australian rivers3.


  • Over capacity of the meat processing sector had always been a chronic problem, but where previously it was due to seasonal factors now the problem was a direct result of management decisions during the late 1970’s (Pg 85, thesis)5

    • Chronic over capacity, undersupply of cattle and oversupply of labour requirements (Pg 117, thesis)5
    • Processing sector shed 15,000 jobs between 1980-1984 (Pg 117, thesis)5
      Entire export sector was regulated by the speed and skill of the production process (The chain and CanPak killing systems), bureaucratic control systems regulated the substantive and procedural rules (The tally and awards)(Pg 120, thesis)5
    • the only way forward for employers was rationalisation of the production capacity (Pg 120, thesis)5


  • Australian Meat Holdings (AMH) – Four largest meat processors in Australia had decided to combine their resources(Pg 126, thesis)5
    • FJ Walkers (Wholly owned by Elders)5
    • Metro Meat Industries5
    • Smorgon Consolidated Industries5
    • Tancred Brothers5
      • combined assets $90M (Pg 127, thesis)5
      • Plan was to combine resources of QLD meat processing facilities, take over Mackay (then owned by Borthwicks) and Bowen plants. Establish the most suitable operating capacity for the new entity and then rationalise the remaining excess capacity (Pg 126 thesis)5
      • Borthwicks latter withdrew from talks but was latter taken over by AMH in 1987 (Pg 128, thesis)5
  • AMH principal objective was to rationalise capacity of its 9 abattoirs, so the remaining plants would operate near full capacity (Pg 128, thesis)5
    • two older plants immediately decomissioned (Pg 128, thesis)5
      • Authors note – think Cairns  and Cape River abattoir (QLD) were two of these plants.
      • By 1996 AMH had closed 5 of the 9 plants.(Pg 128, thesis)5


  • Closed4


  1. Competition & Exit in Meat Processing. Agribusiness review Vol 7 1999
  2. ‘100 years of Northern Beef Production’ Nth QLD register 22.11.12
  3. ‘The Australian Live Export Trade’ Nigel Austin.
  4. Cairns Historical Society.
  5. Employers & Industrial Relations in the Australian Meat processing Industry. P. O’Leary 2008
  6. ‘Queerah Meatworks strike’ North QLD register 17.10.2013

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