''For a bush kid, it was a very exciting thing to happen..."
Robert (Bob) Badgery's love of leather plaiting was sparked as a young boy on a Queensland sheep station in the 1930's. A chance encounter with a stock and station agent who admired the young boys handiwork led to Bob Badgery's first belt sale.
As a young apprentice with a country Solicitor, Bob was able to sell his hand made belts to supplement the apprentice wages. One of Bob's Uncles, Tom Moore was able to find buyers for his belts in Sydney. This business relationship would be rekindled in the 1960's where Bob and Tom created an informal business of kangaroo leather plaiting named 'Moore & Badgery'.
In 1978 Tom Moore passed away. At that time the growth of their small group of plaiter's and retailers had grown to meet large commercial demand.
Badgery Belts has since been developed and grown further from the skills and knowledge of Bob Badgery, the Badgery Family and his team of plaiter's. In 2013 Bob Badgery passed away - his legacy carried on through the Badgery Belt's products to this day.
Image: Bob Badgery adding the finishing touches to a belt in Banyo Queensland, 2010. Photography: Paul Harris, James Braund
Below is an article excerpt from the Australia Today Magazine, Issue 7 Oct/Nov 2010
Australia Today: “Share Stories: A work in progress”
Words: Lachlan Brown, Clair Halliday Photos: Paul Harris, James Braund
Bob Badgery learnt the craft of plaiting kangaroo leather at age 8. Today, at the tender age of 85, and with a long career as a solicitor behind him, he'll still ''put up some leather'' on a nail on the wall and plait an exquisite belt or a watch band, for the pleasure of it- and for the business of Badgery Belts.
''Badgery Belts - I suppose you'd call it a hobby business – comes from a long way back in that I spent the first eight or nine years of my life on a sheep station in western Queensland," he says. ''I was taught to plait by a couple of workmen on the place."
No sooner had Bob made his first belt than the life he loved crashed. ''It was 1933 and the worst of the Great Depression was probably over. But, as it emerged, my father and his partner had to sell out." The failure brought with it a twist of fate that has coloured Bob's life to this day. Had the property not been put on the market at that time, the stock and station agent who arrived to conduct the sale would never have admired the boy's handiwork, and the passion of a lifetime may not have been sparked.
" ... I have enjoyed a love affair with the plaiting of kangaroo leather ever since."
Image: Bob Badgery sitting among the belts at the Banyo Workshop 2010. Photography: Paul Harris, James Braund
''He saw this belt and said, 'That's amazing? Did you make that?' And I said 'Yes' and he said 'My son would love that belt. Would you sell it to me?" Bob agreed and received two shillings and sixpence. ''For a bush kid, it was a very exciting thing to happen ... and to get such praise heaped on me! Anyway, it made a singular impression on me because I have enjoyed a love affair with the plaiting of kangaroo leather ever since.
''I try to look at my life objectively but it's very hard," says Bob, cracking a laugh. ''But I do think there is something to be said for keeping going with the things that I loved doing when I was young - and plaiting is one of them - and so this business has been a great thing for me.
''I'm still pursuing something that I started when I was young and I've never gotten there! Somehow there's an achievement that I want to make ... There's a phrase used a lot these days: 'a work in progress'. I think that's what I am."