How a determined pub owner transformed Urandangi into a peaceful patch of country Queensland

Pam Forster has made a significant contribution to Urandangi during her 14 years there. (ABC North West Queensland: Eric Barker)

More than 14 years ago, a wide-eyed Pam Forster fell in love with the remote Queensland settlement of Urandangi.

So much so, that she bought the local pub which also serves as the post office, grocery store, Centrelink and petrol station.

Nestled among the red dirt near the Queensland-Northern Territory border, you can count the number of residents in Urandangi on your hands.

"I always wanted to have a pub or a general store or something like that; that's always been my dream," said Ms Forster, who grew fond of the town when she worked at a nearby station years earlier.

As soon as she heard it was for sale, the then 57-year-old travelled from the Kimberley in WA to become the proud new owner of the Dangi Pub.

The Urandangi Hotel is a favoured meeting place for locals. (Supplied: Urandangi Hotel)

Forgotten town

It's clear why the hamlet is known as a forgotten town; with no houses and no power, locals live in makeshift shanties under tin roofs.

When Ms Forster arrived in 2008, she said anarchy and grog-fuelled violence were rife.

"It was terrible. There were drunks everywhere, cars racing around," she said.

"It was a feral patch in the middle of nowhere."

Urandangi is surrounded by dirt roads, which can be cut off for weeks at a time. (ABC North West Queensland: Eric Barker)

But the chaos couldn't cloud Ms Forster's vision for a peaceful, connected bush community.

"I felt a calling to this place. I think I was sent there to do something, to tidy it up."

So, Ms Forster set about making a change.

"The first 12 months were pretty hard because they were fairly wild and were allowed to do whatever they wanted," she said.

With the nearest police station located two hours away, Ms Forster took it upon herself to crack down on local ruffians.

An aerial view of the iconic pub. (Supplied: Urandangi Hotel))

As the owner of the most popular building in town, she had some sway.

But it was her belief in everyone's right to mutual respect that won people over.

"I used to just say to the locals, 'If you want to be treated like a human being and you want to be spoken to properly, you have to speak properly back to me and treat me right'," she said.

"And we just finally did things like that."

Pam Forster with some of her customers at the Urandangi Pub. (Supplied: Pam Forster)

Ms Forster said her position as a single white female who was new to the town was never a barrier for her.

"It was a matter of connecting with people on a human level and just reiterating everything all the time: 'Please don't yell', 'please don't do that', 'would you stop tearing around in that car?'

"And I just kept up with that. And now it's amazing."

Worth preserving

With its rich droving history and the crucial services it provides to travellers on their way to and from Alice Springs, Urandangi is a place worth preserving, Ms Forster says.

Founded in 1885 as an important watering hole for travellers and drovers roaming the Georgina River stock route, Urandangi was once a thriving town.

While time has seen its population dwindle (just nine adults and 12 children live in the town), Urandangi remains a traveller hotspot.

And visitor numbers are on the rise.

"I think that contributes a lot to helping keep the town alive," Ms Forster said.

While only nine adults and 12 children live in the town, travellers regularly visit the area. (Supplied: Pam Forster)

Heart of the community

Over the years, Ms Forster believes she has transformed the town into a tranquil, tight-knit community.

Locally,  she is known as the unofficial mayor or Nannie Pam to the local kids.

"And if you like being in the bush and going hunting and that, there's plenty of kangaroos and emu and goanna. And that's what the locals catch all the time."

As town matriarch, Ms Forster relishes hosting events that bring what she considers her family together.

"All the kids get a birthday party on the verandah and everybody's invited," she said.

Local kids cool off at a swimming hole. (Supplied: Pam Forster)

Every March, the pub hosts a "get to know your neighbour day" where workers from all the outlying stations are welcomed into Urandangi for a day of fun activities coordinated by Ms Forster.

From Anzac Day commemorations to pamper days for the local women, cricket days and sausage cook-offs, it's clear Ms Forster and her pub are the beating heart of the community.

So, it was a sad day for Urandangi when the 70-year-old announced she was leaving.

As health issues draw her away from the place she swore to be buried in, Ms Forster says she has no regrets and is filled with nothing but love and hope for the community.

"But my health hasn't been good this year. So I've got to think of myself."

Ms Forster is confident the new owner will carry the torch and is excited to hear what the future brings to Urandangi Pub — the symbolism of which will always run like blood through the veins of the town's history.

"It'll always be part of my life. But I can move on now. I feel I've done what I needed to do and while I'll miss it, I don't need to look back now," she said.


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