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Ora Banda, WA

Ghost town with a single pub north of Kalgoorlie

If it wasn't for the Ora Banda Historical Inn the town of Ora Banda (which once had a population of over 2,000 people) would be a desert ghost town. Instead the pub does good business and there are plans to open a museum. If you arrive during a time when the price of gold is high you will find mining activity in the surrounding area. Gold miners never give up.

Location

Ora Banda is located 661 km east of Perth via the National Highway and Kalgoorlie and 67 km north-west of Kalgoorlie via the Goldfields Highway.

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Origin of Name

In 1893 the Weston brothers established a goldmine in the area which they called Ora Banda, the Spanish for 'band of gold' or 'sash of gold'.

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Things to See and Do

Remnants of the Town
Many of the town's buildings were constructed of timber and consequently they have either rotted away or been removed. The only intact buildings are the Ora Banda Historical Inn and the Government Battery which is scheduled to be turned into a museum. In the area there are still some old ruins and a few isolated homesteads. When the price of gold reaches a certain level a wave of new mining operations arrive in town to exploit the remnants of the once-rich goldfield.

Ora Banda Historical Inn
Originally known simply as the Ora Banda Historical Inn this remarkable old stone and brick building characterised by brick quoins and a double-hipped corrugated roof was constructed in 1911 by Alfred Garnett who believed the gold in the area would ensure a profitable business. It continued to operate for over forty years but the town declined and it was closed in 1958. Between 1958 and 1981 it was vandalised but it was reopened and revitalised in 1981. It closed in 2000 but reopened in 2002 and currently is the main drawcard to the town with people driving 67 km from Kalgoorlie for a pub lunch and few beers. It is the centre of activities on the Ora Banda Race Carnival day and the owners have plans to turn the old Gold Battery into a museum.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was inhabited by members of the Wangkathaa Aboriginal language group.

* Gold was discovered in the Ora Banda district in 1893 at a time when prospectors were racing through the entire area. Originally the area was known simply as '45 Mile' or 'Cashmans' which honoured two early prospectors, Cashman and Lee, who found 1,000 ounces of gold in a few months in the area.

* In 1895 the Weston brothers, who had been tea planters in Ceylon, established the Ora Banda mine after which the town is named.

* By 1910 there were over 2,000 miners in the area which resulted in the construction of a town hall, a post office, a police station, stores, butchers shops and boarding houses. Many of the buildings were brought from a settlement called Paddington which lay 40 km to the east but which was dying.

* Town lots were surveyed in 1911. During the year the stone and brick Ora Banda Inn was opened for business.

* The town was officially gazetted in 1912.

* In 1913 the five-stamper Ora Banda State Battery was officially opened

* The Ora Banda mine was forced to stop operations during World War I because of the lack of water.

* In 1933 the town was connected to the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme which was extended north from Kalgoorlie.

* In the 1950s the Ora Banda pub closed down.

* The Ora Banda mine continued to operate until the late 1970s.

* In 2000 the town was the subject of a bitter bikie feud which resulted in a member of the Gypsy Jokers, Billy Grierson, being shot and the Ora Banda hotel owner, Don Hancock, being killed in a car bombing the following year.

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Visitor Information

Ora Banda Historical Inn, cnr Johnson and Gimlet Streets, Ora Banda, tel: (08) 9024 2444.

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Accommodation

Ora Banda Historical Inn, cnr Johnson and Gimlet Streets, Ora Banda, tel: (08) 9024 2444. Check out http://www.orabanda.com.au/cms/

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Eating

Ora Banda Historical Inn, cnr Johnson and Gimlet Streets, Ora Banda, tel: (08) 9024 2444. Check out http://www.orabanda.com.au/cms/

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Useful Websites

The hotel website - http://www.orabanda.com.au/cms/ - has information about the hotel, motel units and caravan park as well as a menu and details of the planned changes to the town.

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2 suggestions
  • I am an award winning Australian Bush Poet. I have written a ballad about Ora Banda concerning events that occurred at the pub in 1931. It will be entered into the Australian Championships in November this year. I thought you might be interested in the author’s note though I cannot send you the poem until after the competition. I have a photograph of my father winning the 220 yards foot race about which the story is woven

    Authors Note
    This is a true story of events that really happened as related by ‘Blue’, the author’s father, though probably with a few embellishments. The actual cup has the date 1931 engraved on it and to this day remains firmly in the author’s possession. Ora Banda is a gold mining town north of Kalgoorlie with a chequered history. The Stawell Gift is Australia’s, and one of the world’s, most famous and prestigious professional foot races.

    N Roger Palmer
  • Does anyone know the first names of the Weston brothers, as my father’s family lived and worked in the area.

    Ernie Weston