Thursday, 1 June 2017

AAA Tour - Day 10 - Walking Around Town

The original bridge
All of the morning was spent in the town of Wilcannia, after a cool night.

Wilcannia is a much maligned place. Even the BBC caned it in a recent documentary anchored by British actor and TV personality Reggie Yates. According to Bill Elliot, who we spoke with at Miss Barrett's Cafe, a passionate former property owner and now local business man, they chose to leave positive interviews and events they filmed on the cutting room floor when they edited the final to air program.

Thomas Mitchell passed through the area in 1835 and Sturt in 1844 but it was 1863 before the site for the town site was commissioned by JC Moore and the town was gazetted in 1866. White settlement had begun sixteen years early. Aboriginal Australians had been here for thousands of years of course. Local sheep stations soon needed a way to transport their huge bales of wool to market and paddle steamers solves that problem in such spectacular fashion that Wilcannia became the third busiest port in NSW.

Trade became so big that public and private businesses built the huge sandstone buildings which still stand today.

We walked the streets and examined the the prominent sandstone buildings dating back to the 1880's which seem so out of kilter with other abandoned shells which are almost side by side along the main street. Its complex. Most of the businesses have security mesh screens on what were windows and doors. There is no glass to be broken. The Club Hotel, a big dominant hotel on the corner of the main intersection, has no windows. They were boarded up long ago. A park on one side of the main river crossing is run down and broken and further along the river, another area down the bank, was covered in discarded beer cans and broken glass.

A statement of intent from local
Aboriginal women
In between, three large colourful boards beside the original heritage listed centre lifting bridge, define very clear, affirmative statement about how indigenous members of the community want to lead their youth to a better future. The photos and names are displayed. They are making a clear public statement of intent and taking personal responsibility. It was an inspiring action.

The people we spoke to were positive, such as an aboriginal women who asked Sue to visit the board by the bridge and the park opposite the hospital. Parts of the town speak of it but other parts maintain the stereotype you take there with you. It was disturbing. It was perplexing.

We drove out to the hospital. Built in 1879, the original building is still very much in use and has been continuously since it opened. Across the road, is a rough park, called Reconciliation Park, the most dominate feature of which was ten painted panels by indigenous artists. Beautiful artwork. We would have loved to have some explanatory notes but it was enough to appreciate the panels for how they looked.

Interesting morning.

During the afternoon, I sat in the camp kitchen and uploaded photos from the past few days. OnceSue joined me, the next hour or so was such a delight as we watched the birds come to the billabong and feed. Spoonbills, egrets, ibis, restless flycatchers, whistling kites, black-fronted dotterills, a pelican, a pied butcher bird, little corellas, herons. little black cormorants, galahs, magpies, mud larks and lots lots more. Brilliant, brilliant afternoon. Hopefully the photos will reflect that.

Click to see today's photos
Campfire circle again tonight talking with folks from Foster-Tuncurry, Penrith and the Clare Valley.

This is such a great place to camp.

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