Kimberley

Canberra scheming: The last postman Splat will ever chase - if indeed he ever did chase one - landed at Doongan Station on Friday, and nobody's happy about it. Photo: Ray Lanaghan

Five hundred kilometres north-west of Kununurra, in one of the most remote pockets of the Kimberley, cattle dog Splat watched as Friday's Australia Post charter flight made its final reach into the skies above Doongan Station.

After more than 30 years, the mail plane ended its run to the region which, for six months each year, is cut off by road as annual floodwaters give life to the land.

The numbers may not be vast - 20 or so station staff and just over 400 indigenous Kalumburu and Kandiwal community members live in the area's humid isolation - but the mail plane was a lifeline to them, delivering post, fresh fruit and vegetables, perishables, medicine, machinery parts and staff from Kununurra.

Doongan and Theda cattle stations manager Susan Bradley and her neighbours were given just one month's notice of the change. Australia Post announced the closure, driven by declining letter volumes, in late December.

''We have had plane deliveries every Tuesday and Friday for 30-plus years. We never knew the day or the date, it was 'It's mail plane day, therefore it must be Friday,' '' she said by phone from Broome. ''To think that they just sent a letter without any discussion or prior warning. It's all happened so quickly.''

Letters, ensured under Australia Post's community service obligations, will now will be delivered on the Remote Air Services Subsidy Scheme once a week. Larger goods will be prohibitive to send with the subsidy scheme's contractor, Slingair, because of $4 per kilo and $25 per consignment costs.

The change coincides with calls to privatise the $4 billion mail service as outcomes are awaited of the government's Commission of Audit.

Ms Bradley says she has been attempting to convince Australia Post to reconsider its ''one-size-fits-all policy,'' and that the postal service needs to bend to specific regional needs.

Australia Post says its service to Doongan and its neighbours was only ever supplementary to that of the subsidy scheme, despite residents' insistence that an Australia Post charter pre-dated the introduction of the scheme.

Ms Bradley said that postal deliveries to Australia's remotest communities have ''never been economically viable'' and are about much more than the cost of letters.

''Australia Post doesn't take the plight of the person in the outback seriously,'' she said. ''The Aboriginal communities on our run, well, they're just going to have to charter a plane - they're even more isolated then we are. They're hurting, too.

''You go stir crazy,'' she said of the wet season on the 400,000-plus hectare properties. ''To see the mail plane pilot and go out and take him a cup of tea or have a cold drink and to know that's your contact with the rest of the world, it was really important.''