Doug Kite was born in 1924 and grew up near the outback town of Marree (South Australia). His first six years were spent travelling and living with this family in a covered wagon through remote pastoral leases in South Australia, following the work of his father who was employed as a fencing contractor.
When he was six he settled for the first time under a fixed roof in Farina (55 km south of Marree, where the Oodnadatta Track and the Birdsville Track commence; now a ghost town). Doug's early years were coloured by the Ghan railway that travelled through Farina, the regular Afghan traders, interaction with boundary riders and stockmen, and the isolation, beauty and challenges of outback life. Doug started work on local leaseholds when he was 12. Inspired by the lifestyle and personalities of drovers and his own natural talent with horses, Doug aspired to become a boss drover and started to accumulate a drover's plant - horses, dogs, cooking gear etc.
Doug had built up a team of 30 horses for his plant when an unusual offer was made to him - this changed the course of his life. Doug remembers:
'Out from Mungerannie, about halfway up the Birdsville Track ...I was working for Claude Oldfield and his younger son, Claude, we brought a mob of cattle down in June, and this chap from North Balwyn was up there, and he bought the camels off Dad. He said, "How much you're getting now?" I said, "Three pound and threepence a week, and I'm working two hours during the night watching the cattle." He said, "I'll give you six pound for five days if you come down and look after the camels for me." That's what got me over here'.
Doug and his brother were employed by the North Balwyn Wildlife Sanctuary to bring across a mob of 14 camels from Marree for use by the Sanctuary in 1945. Doug's brother returned to Marree, and Doug stayed on at the Balwyn Wildlife Sanctuary for a number of years. He worked in a variety of labouring jobs including jobs at Kodak, Heinz and Ringwood Council.
Doug returned to Farina when the railway was closed in 1984. It was on this visit that he was inspired to begin braiding leather. Doug is essentially self-taught and over the years continually tested and extended his skills with new techniques and items. He established a national reputation for his fine work and was especially recognized for his miniature hat bands. Doug was a founding member of the Australasian Whipmaker and Plaiters' Association.
Doug is a master braider, artist, innovator and mathematician. He is constantly inventing new braiding designs and methods. His expertise is widely acknowledged, with orders for his work from all over Australia and the United States of America. Doug's braiding is also an expression of his passion for the South Australia outback and his own connection as a drover to the larger story of the Australian pastoral industry.