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Wilcannia, NSW

Historic port on the Darling River

It is impossible to write about Wilcannia without discussing what white visitors describe as "the Aboriginal problem". There has long been a perception, fuelled by newspaper reports and images of groups of local Aborigines standing around outside the pubs in the main street, that the town is a hotbed of violence, dysfunctional behaviour and "problems". It is not uncommon to hear, in White Cliffs, Cobar or Broken Hill, people declaring that they drove through Wilcannia and did not stop because it looked so dangerous. And it is very common to hear locals advising visitors not to stop in Wilcannia because it is a dangerous town.
This assessment is simply not true. Historically there was a major problem because very ignorant government officials used Wilcannia as a dumping ground for First Nations peoples from surrounding areas with no thought (or knowledge) that they belonged to different language groups and were not necessarily going to all live happily ever afterwards. It was not dissimilar to creating a camp in the Balkans and putting a mix of Croats, Serbs, Macedonians and Greeks together because they all look white and surely they will all get along with each other. The potent mix of the local Barkindji with Wangkumara, Danggali, Barindji and Malyangapa people from surrounding areas was deeply divisive and racially insensitive.
Sadly very few travellers get out of their cars, have a look around this genuinely fascinating historic port town and talk to the local First Nations people, who are, almost without exception, very friendly and only too happy to chat about this interesting township on the banks of the Darling River. After all, many of them are Barkindji people who have been living in this region for 40 000 years.


Wilcannia is located 948 km north west of Sydney via the Great Western, Mitchell and Barrier Highways. It is only 78 m above sea-level and the average rainfall is 252 mm per annum.


Origin of Name

Wilcannia reputedly means "a gap in the bank where the flood waters escape" in the Barkindji language of the local Aborigines.


Things to See and Do

Historic Wilcannia
When the paddle steamers from South Australia managed to traverse the Darling River and reach Wilcannia the town became an important river port. By the 1880s it was an impressive collection of buildings, many built from local sandstone, ranged along the streets above the river. To experience the town: spend time, read the placards outside the buildings, and explore the Heritage Trail which comprises eighteen sites (with two more in Tilpa) all of which are of genuine historic interest. Some of the buildings that are particularly impressive and interesting include:

Wilcannia Bridge (1896)
The bridge that crosses the Darling River at Wilcannia is an unusual centre–lift construction (if the paddlesteamers were too high it could be raised to allow them safe passage) which is now classified by the National Trust. It replaced a punt which was capable of moving 4,000 sheep a day across the river. The town's wharf, dating from the 1870s, can be seen from the bridge. Sheep were often unwilling to cross the bridge and locals made a lucrative income by hiring out poddy lambs or pet sheep to lead the herd across. The best views of the bridge are from the banks of the river below the Court House and Police Station. The Heritage of Australia records: "The central span lifts vertically on wire ropes, balanced by counterweights in corner towers, which are portal-braced and connected across the span. It is a classical example of the bridges built over western rivers when barges, often highly laden with wool, were the main means of transport."

Post Office (1880)
On the corner of Reid Street and the Barrier Highway is the elegant Post and Telegraph office and its attached residence. The buildings have been well maintained with restoration work in 2010 and a reopening in 2013. The residence, a handsome home for the postmaster, is a two storey dwelling with fine ironwork on the upstairs veranda.

Club Hotel (1879)
The Club Hotel on Reid Street was built on the site of the town’s first hotel. It was nicknamed the "Five Alls" after an English aphorism:

First - The Clergyman - I pray for all
Second - The Lawyer -I plead for all
Third - The Doctor - I heal all
Fourth - The Soldier - I fight for all
Fifth - The Farmer - I pay for all.

A suitably rural joke about the unfairness of life for the farmer.

Knox & Downs Store (1890)
Once the ultimate country general store, the Knox & Downs Store, diagonally opposite the Post Office, was where locals and travellers could buy literally anything. It was burnt out in 2002 but there is an active movement to find someone who is willing to develop and reopen it.

Wilcannia Athenaeum (1883)
Further along Reid Street is the Athenaeum Library now the Wilcannia Athenaeum Pioneer Museum. Like so many of the buildings from the 1880s it is made from local sandstone and reflects the solidity and confidence which the thriving town had at the time. The Athenaeum's original committee included Edward Dickens (Charles Dickens's son).

London Standard Chartered Bank (1887)
Further along Reid Street, over Byrne Street, is the London Standard Chartered Bank, a reminder of how in the 19th century, a bank could look more like an elegant house than a business building. There is some very fine ironwork on the veranda. It is now used as the Central Darling Shire Council Chambers.

Court House (1880) 
Located next door to the Police Station in Reid Street is the impressive courthouse built of locally quarried sandstone and designed by Colonial Architect, James Barnet. On 25 April, 1885 the courthouse was the scene of a very unlikely legal argument over the issue of cruelty to animals. It wasn't the case but the people involved which make the scene so memorable. One of the police magistrates was Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens, the son of Charles Dickens, and one of the prosecution witnesses was Frederick James Anthony Trollope, the son of the novelist Anthony Trollope. An unusual meeting of the sons of two of the great literary figures of the day.

Police Station (1881)
The Wilcannia Police Station in Reid Street is a two storey building designed in the classical manner, the building has a heavy appearance with a two storey colonnaded veranda which looks like it could be an addition. Constructed in locally quarried sandstone with rendered brick columns, it was designed for use as a jail by James Barnet. Given Wilcannia's remote location, the large size of the gaol is probably a comment on the town's administrative importance for the district.

Wilcannia Central School (1874)
On the corner of Cleaton Street and Hood Street as part of the school complex, is one of the town's oldest buildings, the sandstone Wilcannia Central School. While visiting, check out the murals on the side of the school which are a celebration of local Aboriginal culture.


Other Attractions in the Area

The tiny township of Tilpa (it comes from a Barkindji word "thulpa" meaning "flood waters") lies 145 km north east of Wilcannia on the Darling River. It is located on the Wilcannia-Bourke Road. It proudly declares itself "the village on the floodplain" adding "with the shortest Heritage Walk in Australia" (there are only two heritage plaques in the town) but, interestingly, the Heritage Walk is a useful insight into life along the Darling River at the end of the nineteenth century with stories of riverboat captains and the way the barges were loaded with wheat which was taken down to the ports in South Australia. Today Tilpa is little more than the Royal Hotel. A good place to stop for a drink. The population varies but, at the moment, in 2007 it was 6.

The Royal Hotel has been operating since 1894. In the early days it was both the pub and the post office although this was stopped when a local complained in a letter that argued "1. That the present situation is unsuitable owing to there frequently being drunken men hanging about the premises for days at a time. 2. That frequent rows occur at all hours days and night as at most roadside inns. 3. The annoyance and interruption caused to the Postmaster by the aforementioned disturbances." The post office was moved shortly afterwards.



* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the Barkindji had been living on the banks of the Darling River for an estimated 40,000 years.

* The first European explorer in the area was Major Thomas Mitchell who, in 1835, travelled down the Darling from Bourke to Menindee. Mitchell was confronted by Barkindji warriors near present-day Wilcannia. In the ensuing battle he killed at least two people.

* The settlement of the area by pastoralists began in the 1850s.

* By 27 January 1859 a steamer, the Albury, had traversed the river from South Australia to the current site of Wilcannia which was known as Mount Murchison Station at the time.

* Wilcannia was officially proclaimed a town in June, 1866 and was incorporated as a municipality in 1881.

* In 1879 the Red Lion brewery (it is no longer standing) was built at the northern end of Reid Street. Its great claim to fame was that it was the first brewery which the famous beer entrepreneur Edmund Resch built in Australia.

* By the mid-1880s Wilcannia was a booming port with 13 hotels, a population of 3,000, and a local newspaper - the Wilcannia Times.

* By the late 1880s Wilcannia was the third-largest port on the Darling River. At the time it became known as "Queen City of the West".

* In 1887 222 steamers passed through the port.

* The discovery of gold at Mount Browne saw traffic and trade increase through the port.

* When opals were discovered in White Cliffs in the 1890s the river trade increased. Wilcannia became the supply depot for the opal miners. Eventually, as road and rail traffic increased the steamer trade, the town's importance, declined.

* In 1892 Wilcannia was hit with a rabbit plague so severe that a man was employed to remove the rabbits which had been killed by children on their way to school.

* By the 1920s, with the arrival of reliable road transport, the town's importance as a port declined.

* Today 65% of the town's population are indigenous.

* In 2012 the Lowitja Institute established an Adult Aboriginal Literacy Campaign in the town. At the time it was estimated that 40% of the town's Aboriginal community were illiterate.


Visitor Information

Wilcannia Tourist Information, Post Office, tel: (08) 8091 5000. After hours try Bill Elliott, 0429 915 467.


Useful Websites

There is an excellent and useful local website - http://wilcanniatourism.com.au - which provides advice on local road conditions and other relevant information.

Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

102 suggestions
  • Thanks for this site. Just one correction please: The phone number for Tourist information is now 08 8091 5000 which is the Post Office. Outside these hours Bill Elliott, president of the Tourist Association can be contacted on 0429 915 467.

    Chris Elliott
  • Reading about Wilcannia, I started laughing. Who is telling these tales about this beautiful place and the beautiful people? Non Aboriginal people who have a lot of skeletons in their closet? Working there for two years, I found out a lot of stories from the Aboriginal people re. Housing there is none, families are living five families in one house, no house to rent or buy, the shop is so costly that black and gold flour 2kg is $8.35 loaf of bread is $5.50 eat it that day or it will go mildewy, no fresh veggies. Alcohol is a problem for the white people too, not just the Aboriginal people. Most of the Aboriginal people work, they are kind, helpful, and lot of fun, they live a very hard life. I take my hat off to the people for surviving in a harsh place, with so many knockers who are racist and have no idea of Wilcannia and it’s people. They don’t want to get out of their car or stop for petrol because of what they heard about the place.

    Delece Manton
    • Thanks Delece. That is my perception of the town, too. Always friendly and wonderfully generous. You have added to our understanding. It is definitely a town worth stopping in.

      Bruce Elder
    • I live in Wilcannia and work at the local store. Never have I seen prices like you are stating. We get, and have always gotten, fresh fruit and vegetables every week. We get fresh meat every week. Fresh bread comes in 4 times a week. Yes during summer 45 -50 degrees heat bread will only last 2 days. Over 40 years of living here no supermarket, bakery – yes we did have a bakery in Wilcannia plus a butchers shop – has ever charged prices like that for a standard loaf of white or wholemeal bread.

      Sandra Mclennan
  • I recently passed though Wilcannia and found the boarded up houses and shops to be a beautiful sight. The drunken mob gathered around the service station was also a treat, especially the pregnant girl that looked about 14 who was also clearly pissed.Leaving town I saw a burnt car which was pretty much the highlight of Wilcannia. Where the average life expectancy for a male is 37 and woman is 42 anyone who supports the current system of handing out $ to this community should be ashamed. Remove welfare, grog and have its inhabitants live off the land and I would bet life expectancy would increase, as would the self worth, health and happiness of the people.

    • This is precisely the problem I have written about. Apart from the fact that I had to correct Mick’s spelling of both “Wilcannia” (he spelt it with a single “n”) and “inhabitants” (he spelt it “inhabitance”) there are a set of assumptions that have no basis in fact and lots of ill-disguised bigotry. “boarded up houses and shops” exist in every small country town. It is the problem of distance and the nature of change. It would help to look at the beautiful 19th century buildings – the Court House, the Athenaeum, the fascinating old bridge. “Drunken mob” – have another and more careful look. This is a wonderful new approach. Don’t stop. Assume everyone is drunk. Whenever I stop I find the so-called “mob” friendly and generous. “A burnt car was the highlight” – only because you didn’t bother to look at the historic buildings. Your prejudices were well established by the time you got there. “The pregnant girl that looked about 14”. well, “that” should be “who” and what evidence do you have that she was (a) about 14 or (b) that she was pregnant. And then we have the old solution to Aboriginal problems. Interesting. The best minds, both black and white, have grappled with this problem for over 200 years (ever since Europeans stole the land which had been occupied for up to 60,000 years) and Mick knows how to sort it out in 30 words. I find this post deeply depressing … but then I am not surprised. I have heard it all before … and it is just not correct.

      Bruce Elder
  • Thank you for you well written information. My partner and I are off on see see our beautiful country and after reading this I would love to visit your lovely town.

  • We have been travelling and went through Wilcannia early on in our trip. We stopped and had a coffee in the garage cafe after we purchased fuel. The coffees were expensive $7.50 each but they were hot and most welcome. We drove around the town to try and get an idea, for ourselves about the town. I am only sorry now, having read this article,that we didn’t stay longer. The local aboriginal people we saw were all were quiet, behaving in a perfectly acceptable manner. The town itself did look a bit neglected and sad, but as Delece said, that is the reality for the people here who cannot get housing and live in harsh conditions in this part of Australia. Alcohol is a terrible problem for anyone who abuses it no matter what colour their skin might be. I am ashamed that in my research for my trip, I read and listened to the advice of ill informed and predudiced people. I am quite determined now to return at some point and find out more about Wicannia from the people who live there.

    • Thanks, Glynis. I have been saying that Wilcannia is both fascinating and not frightening for years. So glad to see someone else having a similar experience. The buildings above the river are quite remarkable and the bridge is a reminder of the early history of the Darling.

      Bruce Elder
  • My daughter and I stopped, on our way to Broken HIll, and enjoyed a good walk around and a coffee and cake in the cafe. It was lovely. Such beautiful old buildings, just sad that they need so much repair. I’d recommend all travellers interested in history to stop and spend time in Wilcannia.

    Lynne van Veen
    • We passed through last year and yes we heard stories but just like what we were told about at Bourke found it false. As for Wilcannia I think if the progress association got together and did what lots of other out of the way towns have done and set up a free camp close to town for the caravanning crowd they might find more visitors stop and stay and spend a dollar or two in town. Surely this would help, we loved the very few places where we could go on a guided tour and gain knowledge of the customs and bush tucker of the local Aborigines.

  • Hottest temp of 50 degrees Celsius in Wilcannia, sometime in the 80s I think.

  • I am from Melb. and am a keen amateur photographer. I have an almost new family size sedan and am considering driving into and around your region on a 4 or 5 day trip. I know I sound like the typical city slicker but I would prefer not to traverse lengthy stretches of dusty gravel roads. I would like to know what the road surfaces are like between the main towns, eg Balranald to Deniliquin, on to Hay, then to Wilcannia. Would definitely prefer sealed roads. Am looking for interesting rural, outback landscape type photography. Any advice would be grateful. Thank you.

    Reply from Aussie Towns: I have driven around the areas you are talking about and the simple answer is “There are plenty of sealed roads and there are plenty of rather ordinary dirt roads”. So, for example, the road from Cobar through Wilcannia to Broken Hill is a good quality sealed road. The road from Milparinka to White Cliffs is a pretty awful dirt road. The road down the Murray-Darling from Bourke to Wilcannia is dirt and it continues as a dirt road for another 100 km. You can drive sealed roads by simply ensuring you choose a sealed road when there is an option. I would suggest that you get a Cartoscope Map of the area – http://www.cartoscope.com.au/maps/outback/outbackregion.pdf. It tells you exactly which roads are sealed and which are unsealed. And it is up to date.

    Neil Roberts
  • The old Queen’s Head Hotel in Wilcannia is being refurbished by Andrew to make it a place for locals to gather and produce their art work. He has been working hard on this worthwhile project with the help of a few friends and local people. I look forward to visiting the town after April to see this transformation. I also look forward to staying at the caravan park 3 klms out of town, called Warrawong, which has cabins as well as camping sites by the river. I have heard very good reviews from friends who have stayed there.
    If the food store in town could be improved, that would be an added incentive to stay awhile.

    Helen Reich
  • I visited Wilcannia for work as we drove from Broken Hill that morning. Upon entering the town, it looked deserted with only a few people around, mainly Aboriginals who have lived there for a while. Later that day, our organisation, along with the local council and other community service providers had a family fun day in the park next to the Post Office. The whole town showed up, around 130 people. We had jumping castle, face painting, games for kids, dancing competition and a barbecue as well. It was plain to see there was nothing for the kids in relation to job prospects in the town. I felt sorry for them as I knew most of them may not leave the town as they were disadvantaged. My company subleases houses out there and attends to repairs and maintenance of the properties. I was advised the handy man in the town also owns the take away shop, the petrol station, and the local independent grocery shop which has limited stock at 3 -4 times the price you pay in city areas. Its a beautiful town but its like going back to the 1800’s where the town is left neglected and no job prospects for locals who reside there. Since the guy who owns these establishments and has no competition, he is making a tidy sum so there is definitely a need for more shops there but from a business point, it would only be one of the locals from neighbouring areas who would set up shop in that tiny town of Wilcannia. I hope the youngsters stay in school and then move out under Employment related accommodation to other towns, say Broken Hill and then flourish from there as there is no future for young kids in the town.

    • Thanks for that. There is so much negativity about Wilcannia from people who are not prepared to stop and experience this remarkable and historic river port. I love it. Thanks again for a great write up. Bruce Elder

      Bruce Elder
    • Interesting Comments, Jeffrey. Couple of errors. Service Station (Liberty) owned by a Broken Hill Family
      BP owned by family lived in the area for generations. IGA and Pub owned by one person. He is NOT the handyman.
      Population around 650. Unfortunately, another case of mis-information

  • Elizabeth Peter was the Licensee of the Punt Hotel in the 1890s I think, followed then by William Peter. Can anyone give me some added information re these two people.
    I know that there is a headstone in the Wilcannia Cemetery for a Elizabeth Paterson Peters. She is my Great-G. Grandmother.

    Denis McIntosh
  • I am very interested in Wilcannia. I can trace my family back to it where they lived at least from 1980 to 1909. I am trying to find out if they were aboriginal. I have read a few of the comments here about Wilcannia, and I don’t know about the person criticising “a 14 year old girl” for being pregnant. How judgmental is that? Some middle-class white person passing their white perceptions on to others sucks. One thing I have learnt in this lifetime is that judgmental people are the ones with something to hide. I am hoping to touch base with someone who can tell me about my family. I really need to find out if I have aboriginal blood.

  • Dear Sir,
    Emily Shand married John Gass in Wilcannia in 1880 at which time I don’t think that there was a church,( the date on St James Anglican church being 1883) but they were married by a minister. Is there anything known about him or the witnesses?
    While the usual residence is shown as Wilcannia, it is presumed that as he worked at Little Boss mine, they would have lived in Silverton, possibly in one of the miners cottages similar to those later transported to Broken Hill by bullock cart. I was wondering if I could get a floor plan of a typical cottage to see what the accommodation was. If you do not have one perhaps you could provide a reference.
    I doubt if it is possible to locate where in Silverton they might have lived- I have a road layout of the town from R H B Kearns booklet.
    Nobody seems to know of Little Boss mine but it may have also been primitive and may not have been registered.
    In the Wikipedia reference to Silverton reference 11 gives a list of those buried in the cemetery and John Gass is included.
    Any information that you could provide would be appreciated.
    Thank you
    Robert Shand

    Robert Shand
    • We have missed this town so very much. I have been wondering if you could tell me the street where the Drop In centre is located?

      I don’t know the address but here is a little bit about it: “The WINGS Drop-in Centre – Safe Aboriginal Youth program provides youth development activities in Wilcannia including school holiday programs, after school programs, support for the Far West Academy of Sport including the junior rugby league program and community cultural activities.”

    • Hi Robert,
      If Emily and John married by the rites of the Anglican Church the original Angilcan Church registers for Wilcannia can be located at the Charles Sturt University Archives at Wagga Wagga. I have emailed the Archivist and they were very helpful and will supply a copy of the marriage entry if it is found. The original Catholic Church registers for Wilcannia are at the Catholic office in Broken Hill. I am from Wilcannia and I am researching my family who settled there around 1865.

      Linda Mitselburg
      • Hi Linda
        I too am doing some research on my family connections to Wilcannia. My Great Grandmother was Mary Ann Mitselburg who moved to Wilcannia from South Australia with her family in the mid 1860’s. My wife and I visited Wilcannia last September. We had a nice coffee at the coffee caravan in Reid Street and spent some time at the cemetery (plenty of family at rest there). We also had a long chat to a lovely indigenous man who was tending graves out there. We enjoyed our brief stop at Wilcannia.

        Fred Goode
        • Hi Fred,
          I have just found your reply, bit late I know! Yes I know about Mary Ann, she was an older sister to my great grandfather Frederick Mitselburg.
          Do you know Daniel Goode? …he may have passed by now because he was about 90 when I first met him a few years back.

          Linda Mitselburg
        • My friend Marie Davidson’s late mother was Clara Mitselberg Davidson. Her father was Frederick Mitselberg and her mother was Alice Elizabeth Thorpe. These are the same Wilcannia Mitselbergs.

          Daniel Pianto
          • Hi Daniel,
            Yes the names you mentioned are part of the same Mitselburg family. I know Marie, she is a first cousin of my late father Ross.


            Linda Wallis
    • A history of St. James Church of England, Wilcannia 1883-1983 called The Boundary Riders, by Allyn Mann, was published c.1983. It explains that although the church was completed in 1883, Wilcannia had a clergyman from 1875. In 1880 the clergyman was Rev D Rutledge. You might be able to obtain this book through your local libray by an interlibrary loan.

      Jane Wesson
  • I enjoyed my time in Wilcannia as a teacher about 15 years ago. My family loved there time there too. Yes it is remote and a little rough, but hey it is in the middle of nowhere. We used to shop at Broken Hill. Cycling and running the tracks around the town and when the Darling dried up I would run the dry river bed. An easy drive to White Cliffs and other gorgeous and interesting surrounds. The local Aboriginal people were mostly very friendly, helpful and offered insight to their ways. I would hate to have missed those times. Heading back out there soon with family for a road trip down memory lane. Take a canoe too.

    Gary Barton
  • I find it strange and disappointing that in your history of Wilcannia, you have one line dedicated to the history of people who lived here for more than 40,000 years, and the rest is a history of what has occurred since European settlement.
    A completely uninformed and biased history.

    • If anyone can add to the history of the area before the arrival of Europeans, please let me know. I would be happy to include that information.

      Bruce Elder
      • Hi mate, I was born and bred on the banks of the Darling River and can assist you with the cultural history of the Paakandji/Barkandji People of Wilcannia and surrounding area

  • It was in the late 1950s a team employed by my father built a wool shed on Murtie station up river from Wilcannia. Bill Laylaw was the manager. When you went to the homestead for dinner you were required to wear a tie and there were servants in waiting. Old tradition.

    Jeff Rumble
  • I was on a road trip,driving from Gosford NSW to Alice Springs last year with a friend whom I had met while she was working in the UK. Coming from the UK’s smallest city, Wells in Somerset, I was fascinated to be in the town of Wilcannia. At first glance as we crossed the bridge and slowed down, it didn’t seem to be worth stopping. But the necessity of a beverage and use of the toilet forced us to turn off the main road. After fulfillment on both accounts, we decided to stretch the legs and have a look around. That was when my eyes were opened and I learnt of the history of the town and also by interaction with the local people, both black and white. It seems to me that there is potential there for revitalisation of the town but it will take the will and spirit of ALL the townsfolk to want to change the negative image and build on the history of WILCANNIA. Thanks to all for their hospitality and best wishes for the future. Neil.

    Neil Robinson
  • Also a special thanks to my friend Kaylene with whom i made the journey to Alice Springs. And without her knowledge of the terrain I would have missed WILCANNIA .

    Neil Robinson
  • Hello,
    I am writing up my family history and have discovered that on 1st September 1873 my Great Grandfather William Jonathan Gawthorn was appointed Bailiff of the Small Debts Court at Wilcannia. Would any one else have any history on this place around the same time?
    Rosemary Owens

    Rosemary Owens
  • I have only been to Wilcannia via Google maps. However my father Sydney LeLievre was born there in 1900. His parents were Philip Henry LeLievre and mother Angelina Kennett (LeLievre). I am writing up their genealogical history and found these articles extremely interesting and helpful. The family eventually went to Western Australia around 1904-1905. I don’t know by what means but probably by ship from Adelaide. I am trying to confirm this. I now live in Ontario, Canada. Thank you for providing this information.

    Brian LeLievre
  • Stopped on quarter tank of gas on way to White Cliffs and Broken Hill.
    Had to spend night as BP closed at 7. Heritage walk was nice. I planned to sleep by the river but blundered into motel. Quiet town, nice people.

    Simon auclair
  • Stopped in Wilcannia yesterday. Few days before that saw the Darling flowing in Bourke, in Wilcannia it was a couple of puddles – criminal.
    Also spent a bit of time talking to locals, and found them VERY friendly and informative.
    The town has some really interesting buildings, some being restored which is fantastic.
    This is a place I will definately revisit

    Des Aldridge
    • When I frequently drove back and between Sydney aand South Australia I always stopped in Wilcannia initially to give away surplus fruit bought in Bathurst, before reaching the fruit fly quarantine line.
      I always found everyone to be friendly and keen to have a chat. On occasion I camped for night on the river bank next to the cemetery and it was always peaceful. I felt safer in Wilcannia than I would in most other big cities, quite frankly.

  • I am from the town of Wilcannia and am only to pleased to see visitors drop by for a chat. I thank you for the kind words regarding the people of the town. Wilcannia is no different to other communities throughout Australia, be the community large or small.

    • My wife and I passed through Wilcannia the other day and really appreciated the time we spent there. Yes there are some boarded up buildings however we bought petrol and interacted with the amazing owner who breeds Kelpies and also stopped at Miss Barrett’s who makes the best coffee and scones. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay and suggest people stop and take in the history of the place. We are grateful to the residents of Wilcannia both white and indigenous who are maintaining the Australian heritage that is so important for all of us. We were dismayed to see the state of the Darling River which seems to be at the mercy of the state governments who do not seem to have their priorities correctly in focus. 40,000 years of Barkinji stewartship seems to have been destroyed by 200 years of white occupation, drought or no drought.

      Derick gattegno
  • My grandparents, John William Daley and Ethel Stone Williams were said to have married in Wilcannia in 1925 but have been unable to find evidence. Does Wilcannia have an archive through it’s council or church?

    Lorraine Stewart(Daley)
    • Hi Lorraine,

      I have been unable to find any records of your grandparents marriage. There are few archives here, the churches took all their records as they closed down.However I do have some cemetery records so checked for the surnames. There are a number of Williams’ buried here, the first being Eileen Williams who died and was buried on the 27th Dec 1945, aged 23. She is in the Catholic portion and her grave is not marked. Only other info is the undertaker was Tom Leggett and the Clergyman was B J Jordan.

      Do you know what your grandfathers occupation was?
      Kind regards

      Chris Elliott
  • What’s wrong with Wilcannia? I was born in Wilcannia. My family are from wilcannia – the Kerwins and Quayles. Miss my old town sometimes. Go wildly.

    Serita Jasper
  • Does anyone know of somewhere called “Quilderie” in the Wilcannia area? My great grandmother was married in Wilcannia in 1883 and on the certificate it says her usual place of residence is Quilderie (my translation of handwriting). Would really appreciate any information that anyone has at all. Her name was Emily Davis and she married Hubert Henry Gaiter. Would love to visit the town some time. Thank you.

    Anne Watkins
    • Hi Anne
      I have a couple of references the the surname Davis that might help, then again might not.
      Telegraph Office
      Early in January, 1878, the telegraph line from Bourke to Wilcannia was completed, and a telegraph station master, Albert Davies, was appointed. His salary of £180 a year was paid by the Telegraph Department.
      Probably the Telegraph office was opened some time after Davie’s appointment, as it was mentioned that telegraph business had commenced on 7th February.
      When approval was given for the amalgamation of the post office and the telegraph station, the post office was transferred to the control of the telegraph station master Davies on 17th March 1878. Mrs. Davies was appointed as an assistant in the office.
      This is from the history of the Post Office, and it appears that he left there in about 1887.

      I also have reference to H. Gaiter as being contracted to supply wood to the Municiple council a number of times in the 1880’s.

      I can be contacted through growing up in Wilcannia facebook page if I can be of any further help
      Kind regards

      Chris Elliott
  • Are there shops to get some supplies, groceries, etc. ?

    M..A. Smink
    • Yes. There are stores in the town with all the necessary supplies.

      Bruce Elder
      • I have been through Wilcannia and ashamed to say that I too was sucked in by the negative stories I had heard in Broken Hill and even though I only intended to stop for fuel I was a bit wary.
        My grandson who has just graduated as a Registered Nurse will have his first six months placement at Wilcannia hospital. Whilst studying he had several short placements in other mainly aboriginal areas (by choice) and absolutely enjoyed them and is really looking forward to his Wilcannia placement. I’ll be interested to catch up with him in Broken Hill later in the year to learn of his experience.

        Gordon Wignall
  • Hi Bruce. Wondering if you can tell me a few things about Wilcannia. Is there a basic library that has internet facilities? Do the classrooms at the central school have air conditioning? A string of 40 degree days is hot, whether it is in Clare, Burra or Wilcannia. Finally, is there anyone in town who can teach grade 5 piano? My experiences have been that most small places have been quite nice with friendly people. There are challenges everywhere but there are many great things about our great land and ALL its people.

    Roger Bentley
    • Hi Roger, I can’t answer any of these questions but I think someone in the town will be able to. Over to Wilcannia locals. Can you help?

      Bruce Elder
      • Hi Roger, yes the school is air conditioned, and no there is no public library. In some areas of town you may be able to access public wi-fi. I understand there is a music teacher at the Central School this year who is running a med week choir. Don’t known about piano though.
        Kind regards

        Chris Elliott
  • This is one of the friendliest places in nsw and needs an image overhaul to stop the spiral of decreasing tourist dollars coming into town. I enjoyed an afternoon of tip football on the oval with the local kids and coppers and a private tour of the ****** ******** (deleted FOR PRIVACY) b

    Gilbert b
  • We stopped at the Victory Caravan Park on our way back to The Sunshine Coast. We found Wilcannia a friendly place, although we didn’t meet many people. We were horrified about the Darling river which was absolutely dry. The river must be the lifeblood to the Aborigine population, surely it’s not just the drought? How much water is being used upstream? It’s a crying shame to see what is happening to Wilcannia, which once was the third busiest port in Australia. We walked the streets and except for some of the more historic buildings the town is falling to pieces.
    Surely something can be done to save this historic town for its inhabitants, but what?
    If you are travelling though Wilcannia, please stop and give this place a chance

    Nick Metcalfe
  • Do you know where I could get information about the Queens Head hotel. My grandparents worked there I believe, in early 1900s. They are buried in the cemetery there. Was hoping to visit the town to see a bit of my family history.

  • The comment about Wilcannia being dangerous comes up a lot on Caravanning and Grey Nomad Facebook pages. Perhaps add info about local Caravanning or camping spots or emphasise that Wilcannia is an RV friendly town would help break down this misconception. We stayed there overnight and liked it.

    • I agree Jan. There is a silly misconception about Wilcannia which irritates me. I try to make people see sense about this fascinating town but there is a lot of deep racism which sees Aborigines in the streets and makes a lot of very racist assumptions.

      Bruce Elder
  • Good read, i feel that there is a story inside of me about Wilcannia just from passing through but also spending a small amount of time here.
    A shame to see it today, sad and depressing.
    Great to see water under the bridge.
    I first came here at the age of 15, 1962 and had a beer in the ” white fella pub ” which is now ” the black fella pub”..
    I have repaired truck tyres here, i have delivered a load of freight here and was locked up by the police for my own protection.
    I felt a part of Wilcannia without living here

    Terry Byrnes
  • Hi
    Stopped at Wilcannia yesterday for fuel,young bloke at the station very helpful and friendly,nice old buildings but tell me why most buildings are barracked up and burned down and very few businesses still operating,it is a shame because the town is on a very busy highway,but on a good note the Warrawong van park is great.

    Corey chapman
  • I drove though there today, looked quite nice, but didn’t stop, had difficulty looking for the signed BP fuel station, had locals staring at me, and did observe total alcohol ban signs (Dry town).

    Plus zero reception or internet.

    michael Stephens
    • Hi. I was recently advised that my children’s great grandmother was from Wilcannia. I’d like to know if there is a way I can research this. I’m guessing she was born in the 1890s. At some stage she moved to South Australia where she got married and started a family.

  • My grandmother grew up In Wilcannia. They owned the Punt Hotel and renamed as the Court House Hotel. There were 9 siblings and many of them settled around this area running sheep stations. Her father was William Alexander Bruce Peter.

    Margaret O’Gorman
  • How come most of the shops are boarded up in Wilcannia?

    Like many rural towns in Australia it is suffering from a combination of an horrendously unforgiving drought and a dramatic improvement in transportation which means that locals often travel to Broken Hill to do their shopping.

  • Awesome place, we went for 2 weeks many years ago, had a great time with the locals, The kids were great, Did music gig for the school kids. Love to go back

    John Dickinson
  • Visited about 20 years ago! Stopped in at the radio station and had a lovely talk with the people there. I have since a soft spot for such an enchanting town. Sad to see the neglect especially of the cultural roots of the indigenous population.

    Benny Stein
  • Hey guys, i am from Broken Hill but have lived in Sydney for many years, last time i went through Wilcannia, i fuelled up the remaining petrol station heading west, used the gents only to find that lots of lumps of human excrement had been thrown all over the walls and ceiling, when i mentioned this to the owners they indicated that it was an organised campaign by some of the indigenous locals.
    I have never had any reson to complain about the actions of local indigenous people myself and always found them friendly on a person to person basis, but it would be misleading to indicate there are no problems there.


    • Only one problem: you don’t know why or whether the people at the service station were telling the truth. People, whoever they are, don’t do that unless they have a reason … and usually a good reason.

      Bruce Elder
      • Bruce, I’m really grateful for all your information and am looking forward to visiting Wilcannia. But it’s slightly concerning that you are making excuses for people who are throwing poo around.

        Gavin Sinclair
        • I made excuses when Bobby Sands did the same in Northern Ireland … and I knew and understood those circumstances. Not nice but a very effective way of protesting.

          Bruce Elder
          • Interesting reading about the town. Passed though in 2015 but stopped only fuel, on my way to Tilpa. The boarded up buildings were depressing and gave impression of nothing to stop for. With such a foundation of old buildings, indigenous people and flow of travellers, it strikes me something can and should be done by government by way of making it a tourist town, even an indigenous community to be run by them. I wonder at the money spent on indigenous people which seems to be endless and with nothing to show. I have visited Indigenous communities where they are self run and are wonderful. First thing government must do is house the people. Also it has always intrigued me that big corporations send offshore their call centres, where English is basic and jobs are scripted and we have Australians as human resources living in squalor. As to the comment excusing shit on the wall, there is no justification. Like all protests, which affect the innocent, they end up counter productive and falling in deaf ears. It shows lack of respect.

            James Ross
  • Hi, have just read the many comments written but one in particular interested me. On June 8 2019 Carol wrote enquiring about the Queen’s Head Hotel. I’d like to contact her as my grandfather, Fred Faulkner, operated the hotel from 1915-1925 until his death. It would be great to make contact Gary Parker

    Gary Parker
  • Could someone tell me where J J Barratt had his store in Wilcannia in about 1915

    Benita Parker
  • Wilcannia a Great Old Town. My old Dad was a shearer in the area.

    Tony Yates. Ya8. gy.
    • Hello all, I am very interested in Wilcannia…..My Great Great grandfather Patrick Mathews was working there in 1860ish…..I’m still trying to find exact time, he was a wheel wright blacksmith in 1859 when he worked with the King of Louth Mr T A Mathews in Bourke. I know he married my great great grand mother on Murtie in 1869. Her name Sarah Davis. Patrick and Sarah ended up at Adelaide Camp Hotel North of Booligal. patrick died there in 1885. Sarah remarried to Firth Hill. I would love to visit and see if I could find any information on this man, all I know he came from Louth in Ireland. If any one can help me find out any information I would appreciate it very much. Thankyou.

      Gillian Smith
  • What a great site. It is good to see some positive things written about Wilcannia. I grew up here in the 1950s to 70s. For those interested in reading more about the Barkindji/Paakantyi people the following books have lots of details, “Lament for the Barkindji” by Bobbie Hardy, “Outcasts in White Australia” by C.D. Rowley – Chap 12, p. 279, “West of the Darling” by Bobbie Hardy, or better still have a chat to the local Barkindji still living in Wilcannia.

    Graham Pamount
  • We stayed here for 4 nights at Warrawong on the darling.
    So peaceful and relaxing.
    Walks around The town were fantastic, the locals so friendly and the kids the biggest smiles.

    Dennis Mitchell
  • Several years ago we visited Broken Hill, White Cliffs and stayed in Wilcannia. Terrific trip. No problems. There are good and bad everywhere. We have been to a lot rougher places. Unfortunately it is alcohol that causes all the problems for black or white. The worse part of the trip was a dry Myall Lake

    Joy Chariton
  • I went travelling from Perth to Brisbane and I stopped in wilcannia to have coffee and fuel my car and as a single young female I didn’t receive any bad behaviour or abuse from the towns people in fact the people I encountered were friendly and willing to chat but just because the town looks so run down outsiders judge the book by the cover and I say no, get to say hello and it’s not a bad reception.

    Rowie campbell
  • We have enjoyed stays in Wilcannia on two occasions. Once in the camping ground beside the river, secondly at Warrawong in a cabin. We met quite a few friendly people.
    It was nice to see that several of the historic buildings have been restored or are in progress of restoration. The Anglican church is one work in progress, also a building next to the post office. Andrew has transformed the old Queen’s Head creating several rooms for visitors to stay and areas for local people to gather for meetings. The historic Knox and Downs store was a mess, however I believe that funds have been allocated for restoration and work has begun there. It will make such a difference to the town as it is in a prominent position to see when entering the town after crossing the bridge. Could someone tell how this work is progressing on the old store?

    Helen Reichenbach
  • Is it safe to drive through Wilcannia with COVID virus in the town?

    Teresa bourne
  • Do you have a list of burials for cemetery
    In 1880-1940

  • Just remember that all the problems were caused by white people who stole the country from the Aboriginal people.

  • Unfortunately the pioneer museum is not open. This town has so much potential as a beautiful and interesting tourist destination.

  • Lots of positive and negative comment on here about alleged problems in Wilcannia, I spent nearly two years working there (Post Office) and can honestly say I was never confronted or felt threatened by any behaviour which wasn’t present in any small town. I have stated elsewhere that those two years were among the best time of my working life and made many friends, sure there was some dissent but not above the norm, by today’s standards very mild, sure there was some characters but that’s life. Will never forget the day I arrived I thought I had arrived in the middle of nowhere, was virtually deserted (a Sunday and 112 degrees) first working day a local office girl came to collect the mail, her first comment was ‘ Oh a new bloke, what are you doing Friday night, there is a party on at Bililla you had better come, think it was Liz’s birthday and was very glad I did, will never ever forget New Years day 1970, was on a big sandbar at Neville Crisp’s place, great time, enough tucker to feed an army ,used to go to Broken Hill for two-up most weeks with Dave Cox, Kingsley Wood and a few others, been dribbling on too much but would like to ask a few questions – Does anyone know the circumstances re the naming of the Whitty tank and also where was the sandstone quarried from for all the beautiful buildings, One thing I can and always will remember was something old Mr Barraclough told me was ” Danny once you insiders cross the river you find it very hard to go back” and I am not ashamed to admit that I had a tear in my eye when I drove across the bridge on the way to my next point of employment which was Cowra, didn’t last long as I met Mick Rodden near the Talyawalka , pulled up and he said I missed your farewell, was a Monday morning – went back to town and left on Thursday night, Have been back a few times since, last time was disappointing as I was involved with the conversion of the Post Office to Licenced Post Office, not a good time for me, very fond memories of Aub, Merv, Leo, Buster, Billy, the Dunbar girls ,Jim.

    Danny Whitty
  • We stopped on our way back from Broken Hill as many travellers might wish to do. We had heard all the stories about it being unwise to even stop the car in Wilcannnia. I highly doubted this and was determined to find out for myself. Arter stopping by the Golf Club to see all that remains of the original Red Lion Brewery founded by Edmund Resch we did a short self-guided tour of the heritage buildings throughout the town. I was genuinely amazed. Most of the buildings are magnificent examples of 19th century sandstone buildings (courthouse, post office, bank building, arts centre) – one of the best preserved collections of such buildings in rural Australia I have seen. We also had morning tea (cakes, milkshakes and cookies) at the Cooee Coffee Shop – some of the nicest cakes and shakes we had on our massive 4600km outback road trip. It was a very nice setting with outside tables and chairs across the road from a peaceful park. Even the public conveniences across the road were spotless and well maintained. So I was really glad we stopped and spent some time in Wilcannia and spent what money we could here given the admittedly limited opportunity to do so. Now granted the town has a somewhat ghostly aspect with few people or activity to be seen. Quite frankly it added a welcome calm to the atmosphere. And yes I can see why some might feel concerned as there were a number of presumably unemployed indigenous people wandering about. They were actually very friendly and smiled when we passed them. Don’t pay attention to the snarky comments on the rest of this forum. Look I am not asserting the town doesn’t have issues (I would have no idea) but if more people start to at least stop by during the day and explore a bit then it will give this town a chance. There is enormous potential here as the lack of development is a blessing in disguise as the old buildings have not been compromised. I might also mention that I drive a relatively inexpensive but quite flashy sports car and at no stage did it feel like it might draw unwanted attention. I rate Wilcannia one of the minor highlights or perhaps better expressed as a pleasant surprise on our trip.

    Simon Beck
  • What a great collection of historical buildings you have. Our tour groups all enjoy a run around town. Great new amenities block. Is there a tour guide available, there was a great guy, I think his wife ran a coffee shop.

    Peter Sinclair
  • My wife and I overnighted in Wilcannia last Thursday.on our way back to QLD.We stopped to buy fuel and groceries. Had a good look around its an interesting town. I found it very quiet like a lot of outback towns. I love the Darling.

  • We stopped today for lunch in Wilcannia and the food was delicious and fresh. The town was quiet. The buildings are magnificent! I loved the references to Dickens and Trollope, two of my favourite novelists. We are heading to White Cliffs tonight but will look around Wilcannia again when travelling home to Bourke. Thanks for this great information!

    Beth McMillan
  • My Name’s Paul Marriott 53 Barkantji man….. Wilcannia is a quiet town and violence is a thing of the past. 20 years ago you might get a fight down town once a month or so. Yea she’s a quiet place now….. We’re only too happy and talk about our town if Someone Asks ?
    Stop, Enjoy Our Hospitality, we love visitors….

    Paul Marriott