The Corner Country of outback New South Wales is the area north of Broken Hill that is bound by the state borders of New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia.
There is uniqueness about the region which, in this second decade of the 21st Century, many travellers are only just discovering. Visitors are drawn to the spaciousness: the wide blue skies largely uninterrupted by built structures, the night-time free from light pollution, and the rich hues of the earth. The red colouration of sand and gibbers particularly, strike a chord with many.
With the wide expanse of landscape stretching to a far-away horizon it is not hard to imagine that one can be alone in this wildness, yet safe and at peace.
There are also characters to meet and places to visit that will leave a lasting memory and persuade you to return over and over again.
It has been home to Aboriginal people for millennia; and only discovered in 1845 during Charles Sturt’s Central Australian Expedition. It was settled by European pastoralists in the 1870s followed by miners when gold was found in the Grey Ranges near Milparinka and Tibooburra.
Today, the Sturt’s Steps Touring Route will take you on your own journey of discovery, through the landscapes across which Sturt struggled to the localities and townships of the Corner Country.
The touring route connects about 1100 kilometres of sealed and unsealed roads in an easy and safe to navigate circular route from Broken Hill to Packsaddle, Milparinka, Tibooburra and Cameron Corner.
Information to assist in the planning for a safe trip, including a series of outback driver safety videos are available on the website www.visitcornercountry.com.au along with a range of accommodation options and lists of attractions.
Information shelters are located along the route and downloadable apps, audio files and documentaries are available tell the story of Sturt, the locals and other fascinating bits of information about the region and its heritage.
There really is no place quite like Corner Country and Sturt’s Steps Touring Route will take you there and back safely.
The Sturt’s Steps Touring Route approximates the route taken by Charles Sturt’s when his Inland Expedition came into the Corner Country in 1845. It connects about 1100 kilometre of sealed and unsealed roads from Broken Hill to Milparinka, Tibooburra and Cameron Corner to create a circular touring loop and adventure experience for all visitors.
Originally designed by the Milparinka Heritage and Tourism Association in 2008, the route has been recognised as the “official” touring route of the region and attracted significant funding in 2020 through the NSW Government to expand the journey to include the now-sealed Silver City Highway and to build or enhance visitor experiences along the route.
Driver safety is very important in the Outback, so along the route way finder directional and attraction signs are to be installed. These will help to guide visitors to their destination, especially those who are unfamiliar with the unsealed sections of the route. In addition, outback driver safety videos have been prepared to provide specialist advice about negotiating some of the “obstacles” one might encounter.
New museum spaces have been created in Milparinka and Tibooburra. For information about these follow the links.
New interpretive shelters have been placed at strategic locations along the route, places such as Yanco Glen, Pine View Station, Packsaddle, Mount Poole, Hawker Gate Road, Fort Grey, Milparinka, Tibooburra, Byjerkerno, Fowlers Gap and Avenel. These provide information about Aboriginal heritage, Sturt’s expedition, but also the settlement of the region, the land, transportation through the years and more. Some will soon have digital enhancements.
Each shelter also has a silhouette cut-out of someone or something that is significant in that locality. This is for the all-important selfie photograph to show one’s friends and relatives your experiences in Corner Country!
At minor locations along the route information posts have been installed with “you are here” map locators as well as a brief story about the locality. Furthermore, at key locations along the route interpretive sculptures have now been completed, creating a a-not-to-be-missed art trail from Broken Hill to Cameron Corner.
A yarning circle of large granite slabs has been placed near the Packsaddle Roadhouse. Created by Ian Marr, the slabs have been inscribed with various historical facts; the names of the men in Sturt’s expedition, the shanty towns along the coach routes and more.
Loftus Street, the main road leading into Milparinka, you will see a wire sculpture of Charles Sturt and his horse crafted by Brian Campbell (due for completion in April 2023) representing the challenges that Sturt faced during the expedition.
At the Milparinka Heritage Precinct a rammed earth wall and writer’s desk and chair by Gritta Walker pay tribute to the communication challenges faced by pioneer women on the Albert Goldfields.
On the opposite side of the road is Bonnie Quayle’s silhouette. Bonnie is a Malyangapa/Barkindji woman whose corten work in Milparinka is of five generations of strong Malyangapa/Barkindji women who lived on this land.
A larger than life representation of the Indigenous emu of the dark sky, Kalthi has been crafted by Harrie Fasher and will fly across Milparinka’s Harry Blore Dark Sky Park. This compliments the Astronomy Park in which is sits.
Adjacent, large slate slabs by Ian Marr are inscribed with the names of children whose deaths were recorded at Milparinka from 1880 to 1920. A granite bench is located nearby, a perfect place to sit and reflect on life in Milparinka.
On the way into Milparinka from the highway artists Geoff De Main and James Giddey created a sculpture representative of the cairn built on top of near-by Mt Poole during Charles Sturt’s 1845 expedition. Using sandstone blocks from original cottages the structure also pays tribute to the endurance of pioneering families.
A silhouette of an early mining family opposite the courthouse in Milparinka represents the trials of pioneering families.
As part of Sturt’s Steps project, a room within the Courthouse has been devoted to original artworks by Shane Bates. Shane’s Malyangapa heritage has enabled him to interpret the moiety system of the Aboriginal culture as well as the legend of the Rainbow Serpent.
In the Sturt-Kidman Centre Clark Barrett has painted a portrait of Charles Sturt, as well as a representation of the Kidman properties and Kidman near his cattle yards.
Clark’s painting of Sturt’s saddle has been recast in metal and is a feature on the external wall of the centre.
Within the Pioneer Women’s room at Milparinka is a mural painting representing Matilda Wallace of Sturt’s Meadow, one of the first women in the area. This was created by artist Jodi Daley.
Also in Milparinka, a very large mural covering two sides of the pastoral shed depicting the history of the area from earliest times until the present. This was also painted by Jodi Daley.
Also part of Sturt’s Steps project is a wire sculpture of a cameleer and camel, located outside the new Tibooburra museum space. This has been constructed by Ivan Lovett.
At the end of the main street is the Tibooburra Pioneer Park. The main attraction in the park is a full-size 27-foot long whaleboat (a sculpture by Anthony Hamilton) perched on the top of some poles. This is a replica of the whaleboat Charles Sturt hauled across inland Australia on a wagon with the intention of using it to row around the continent’s ‘inland sea’.
Located at the main road entrances of Tibooburra are silhouette representations of the history of Tibooburra and surrounding areas, exploration, pastoralism and mining.
The Tibooburra Local Area Land Council has also placed direction-finding emus from the Keeping Place to the reserve, and a representation of early mining activity is located at Dead Horse Gully.
A large public mural on a sandstone wall adjacent to the Two Storey Hotel depicts three miners carrying their swags on the way to, or from, the Albert Goldfields. This work was completed by Geoff DeMain and James Giddey,
At the new Sturt’s Steps Tibooburra Museum the large wall mural undertaken by Broken Hill artist Clark Barrett will be completed mid-2023. It will depict people and events from Tibooburra’s history.
Tibooburra’s Family Hotel is famously known by its murals painted by Clifton Pugh, Russell Drysdale and many others.
At Fort Grey Sturt’s Steps joined with the Wild Deserts Project to produce three giant wire sculptures of mammals once extinct in the area. Recorded by Sturt in 1845 the eastern quoll, bandicoot and bilby have now been reintroduced. These were crafted by Brian Campbell and Ivan Lovett.
A large sculpture by Alison Clouston, depicts the significance of water in the landscape and the impact of the pastoralists’ fences, which altered the landscape and changed life in the Outback.
Just for fun, at the junction of the White Cliffs (Henry Roberts Road) and the Silver City Highway is the tool tree…constructed from a Hill’s Hoist clothes line and a number of tools.
In 1845 the members of Sturts Central Australian Expedition became virtually trapped at a waterhole on Preservation Creek near Milparinka. During the six months they spent at that location Sturt’s men built a substantial stone cairn on top of a nearby hill, Mount Poole.
The service has been working with local Aboriginal groups to construct a path to the cairn from the base of the hill which is anthropologically safe. Visitors must stick to the designated route and are respectfully asked not to souvenir any rock material from the site.
Sturt’s Steps project has been instrumental in constructing a number of amenities and attractions in Tibooburra, the most significant of which is the new interpretive centre. Located in Briscoe Street the building accommodates interpretive panels covering a timeline of the history of the community, local Aboriginal heritage, cameo stories of almost sixty of the local residents, as well as the history of cameleering in the far west of New South Wales.
A film showing camels at work is also included, and an iPad will be available to download more of the family history stories that formed the basis of the family history cameos.
A fourth component will be a display about the 1880s survey of the Queensland-New South Wales border fence by John Brewer Cameron which ended at Cameron Corner.
Outside the building is a wire sculpture of a camel and cameleer by Ivan Lovatt while Clark Barrett has been responsible for the painting of a historic mural for the end wall of the museum. (See Art Trail)The premise will be operated by the Tibooburra Area Local Land Council.
The Land council camping reserve has also upgraded with a new camp kitchen and a “yarning circle”.
In Pioneer Park, two new public toilets are being installed (which the Land Council will also maintain).
Other features funded by Sturt’s Steps include the Tibooburra Shelter and two promotional signs located outside local businesses.
One of the major components of the Sturt’s Steps project has been to ensure that travellers are well informed before, during and even after their visit to Corner Country. To facilitate this outcome significant investment has been made into creating a range of digital experiences.
The project has created a series of eight mini-documentaries about Charles Sturt and the expedition. Filmed in Adelaide (from where the expedition began) as well as in the local Corner Country, the series explores the life and times of Sturt, the expedition itself, Sturt’s interaction with Aboriginal people and more.
The series will also be available on an iPad placed in the Sturt’s history room in Milparinka.
The project has also created a series of 30 second animated films featuring “Old Mate Dave”, Jill, an Aboriginal chap, and two youngsters. The series will be downloaded from the website as well as QR codes on promotional panels in Broken Hill, Packsaddle, Milparinka and Tibooburra. Once downloaded visitors will be able to access a whole range of information including safety information, route information, local history, children’s activities, pod casts and more