Two years after the railway reached Government Gums (Farina) in 1882, the line was extended to Hergott Springs (Marree) which in 1884 became the Great Northern Railway railhead, resulting in the start of the decline of Farina as a thriving township. Nevertheless, Farina continued to be staffed by a corporal and two mounted constables, issued with a complement of police horses and camels. In June, 1888 when the lease of the police station was due to expire, Inspector Besley at Port Augusta, wrote to Police Commissioner Peterswald recommending the renewal of the lease, saying; “Farina is a station that must be kept as it is our Depot for camels and the key to the Innamincka Track over which there is an immense traffic to N.S.Wales and Queensland.” The lease was renewed but during 1890’s a two bedroom house constructed of stone with a galvanised iron roof had been purchased for use as the police station. It was located on North Terrace, Farina (in the vicinity the cricket ground). The wood and galvanised iron single police cell was relocated from the former rented police premises to the new station and placed adjacent to the rear stables/shed.
The role of the police at Farina during this period was not only to maintain law order and carry out patrols of the far north and surrounding cattle stations but also included carrying out a myriad of other government services which for Mounted Constable James Dowling in 1892, included the role of ‘public vaccinator’. In 1892 the Port Augusta Dispatch, Newcastle and Flinders Chronicle newspaper reported, “Mr Dowling, the officer in charge of police here has vaccinated a goodly number, judging from the women and children seen going to and from the police station.” By the early 1900’s with the decline in population and the establishment of other police stations within the far north of the state, Farina was reduced to a one officer station.
It was during this period that the second significant tragedy occurred at the Farina police station. In June 1903, the death took place of a six month old baby girl of Mounted Constable William Neil Smith and his wife Mrs Flo Smith. At the time of the infant’s death, Mounted Constable Smith was absent from the police station for an extended period, conducting a search for a missing prospector. During the search Mounted Constable Smith received word that one of his children had died, however it was some time before he could return to find out the identity of which of his children had passed away. The life of Mounted Constable Smith is quite sad. His first wife died of typhoid fever whilst he was stationed at Gladstone. After re-marrying, a six month old baby also died at Gladstone, followed by a second child at Farina and finally in early 1916, whilst stationed as the officer in charge, Kingscote police station, Mounted Constable Smith died of appendicitis.
By the late 1920’s the role of the police horse and camel were in decline, the officer in charge of the police station being permitted to use his private motor vehicle for police transport, for which mileage was reimbursed by the Police Department. It was also during this period that a number of improvements and repairs were carried out on the police station, some repairs being due to a major storm in November 1921, which caused substantial damage to the town. The station building works included removing sand from the ceilings, installing a new bathroom and cement floor, replacing the front verandah posts, providing a hood over the external door entrance to the police office, replacing the existing ceilings with new fibrous plaster ceilings in the two bedrooms, living room and kitchen and replacement of the external residential water closet (toilet).
In March, 1950 Farina suffered its worst flood in 50 years with the flooding of the Witchelina Creek. This resulted in the police station being inundated with water up to four feet deep and three feet of water in the station yard. The then officer in charge, Mounted Constable W.R. Geary in a report to his Inspector wrote, “Police Station is finished, bad odour, damage to foundations and floor boards buckled.” By June 1950 it was suggested that the police station should be rebuilt on a higher section of the town, but with the recent establishment of the township of Leigh Creek and the opening of a police station there, coupled with the continued decline in Farina’s population, the Farina police station was closed on 18 January, 1951 and the wood and galvanised iron police cell dismantled and relocated to Kingoonya police station.
The Farina police district was subsequently divided and allocated to Maree and Leigh Creek police stations. Within a few short years Farina became a ghost town of vacant and crumbling buildings. In 2008 there was good news for the historic former township when the Farina Restoration Group of volunteers was formed and work commenced on preserving many of the building ruins, including restoring the unique old underground bakery and the two former police stations. In 2017 Farina is now a popular camping location and historic tourist attraction with the excellent work of the Farina Restoration Group continuing into 2017 and beyond.
Postscipt: There remains uncertainty by some historians as to the year that police were first stationed at Farina and how many structures were occupied as the Farina police station. It is the author’s view based on all available evidence that Mounted Constable Frederick Campbell was the first to be stationed there in June, 1876 and that there have been three police stations; the first located in a tent, the second in rented premises near the present day restored underground bakery and the third at North Terrace.