Milparinka Heritage Town lies adjacent to the ancient creek that was named by Charles Sturt after his brother Evelyn. It is a short drive from the Silver City Highway, just 40 kilometres south of Tibooburra.
At first it was a shanty collection of tents close to the water’s edge, but after being surveyed in the early 1880s more substantial buildings were built on the sandstone plateau to the west. By the late twentieth century all but the hotel was a ruin.
Today the town has been revitalised through the efforts of an inspired community group which has overseen the restoration of most of the remaining heritage buildings and purpose-built new centres to create an award winning Heritage Precinct.
Attractions cover Aboriginal heritage, exploration and settlement, mining heritage and geology and more. When all spaces are completed in early 2023 the entire complex will provide visitors with an unforgettable and rewarding experience in more than 20 separate areas across a one hectare site.
The Precinct also utilises environmentally responsible practises such as the collection of rain water and solar infrastructure. Native gardens have been planted across the area to provide shelter for birds and visiting wild-life, and to beautify what was once a very arid landscape.
The Precinct does charge an entry fee of $10 per adult, $8 concession, payable at the Visitor Information Centre in the courthouse.
The Milparinka Visitor Information Centre (VIC) is the hub of the historic precinct which encompassing many separate attractions. Located in the front room of the former Colonial courthouse the VIC is the gateway entry where visitors are greeted by dedicated volunteers who guide their guests to the many attractions of Milparinka.
The courthouse itself is a major attraction. It is a magnificent sandstone building designed by Colonial architect James Barnet and constructed in 1896 using locally quarried materials. The design allowed airflow through the vents and into the courtroom where the high ceilings and numerous windows enabled the building to be cooled. We are proud to be able to have such building as the “corner stone” of the Precinct.
Volunteers also have a range of history books relative to the area for sale, and locally source Aboriginal art, pottery, hand-made soaps, jewellery, cards, caps, mugs and other souvenir items.
All adult visitors to the Precinct who want to view the many displays or use the facilities such as camp kitchen, picnic areas and more, must pay the required entry fee of $10 or concession of $8. Children have free access to the Precinct (but must be supervised).
Funds raised at the VIC are all used to help maintain the Precinct. EFTPOS is available.
The Milparinka Heritage Precinct Malyangapa Cultural Heritage Room explores the kinship connections of the Malyangapa people by explaining the moiety system of marriages and illustration them with original artwork by Malyangapa artist Shane Bates. These include the emu, dingo, boney bream, wood duck and more.
Shane’s illustration of the rainbow serpent legend (Ngatyi) holds centre place in the room, while approved artefacts are arranged around the room or securely placed in display cases.
The room can be accessed from the adjoining Visitor Information Centre.
The Milparinka Heritage Precinct Malyangapa Local History Room is located in the courthouse adjacent to the Visitor Information Centre. It features written historical accounts of the life of local Aboriginal people in the Milparinka area. These were traditionally Malyangapa people and the interpretive stories and accounts were prepared by descendants.
Also featured is a video in which Harold Hunt OAM whose mother was born in Milparinka discusses the life of Aboriginal people in the area. Harold partially grew up near Milparinka before moving to Wanaaring. His mother’s photographs of the relocation of Aboriginal people from Tibooburra in the 1930s form part of the interpretive displays.
The Milparinka Pioneer Women’s Room is a special place where visitors are able to read a series of short stories about some of amazing pioneer women and girls who braved the isolation and hostile environment of a newly settled part of the colony in the late 1880s and early 1900s.
Located at the rear of the Courthouse, the room is discreetly and sensitively arranged with artefacts representative of the era, some of which were owned by some of the featured women.
A portrait of a young woman and child, representing Matilda Wallace of Sturt’s Meadows Station, was painted by award-winning artist Jodi Daley, together with the quote:
I should not have said I was left alone, for I had my dear little baby, and you can imagine what a great comfort my baby was to me after so many years of loneliness. I often prayed fervently to the Lord to spare my darling to me.
One cannot visit the room without feeling a sense of compassion for the lives that these and other women of the west experienced during that era.
Alongside the Milparinka Courthouse is the former police station, barracks and early courtroom. Built in 1883 of local sandstone it has been all of the above, as well as a private home and now a public museum space.
The What was at Milparinka Room is central to the building. It features stories about the most important buildings as well as the early movers and shakers of Milparinka. Their stories are recorded on panels around the walls, while in the centre a display case holds items such as the hydrometer once used to measure the specific gravity of liquor at the Albert Hotel, or a set of gold scales which may have been used to weigh gold mined at Mount Browne.
One of the featured residents was Thomas Wakefield who, for a few years, published a local newspaper. Most of the known copies of the newspaper have been digitised and can be read from touch screen in the room. These provide a remarkable insight into the life and times of Milparinka.
Disabled access to this room is best through the rear door. If you need help please ask at the VIC.
The adjacent Milparinka ANZAC room is dedicated to the young men of the district who enlisted in World War 1. Entitled “From Milparinka to Messines Ridge” the featured story boards briefly recounts the experiences of these brave young men, several of whom lost their lives during the conflict.
Each of their respective war records have been published and are available for reading. Several items of war memorabilia are on display, including some used by the servicemen during the war.
Other displays in the room included vintage and antique domestic items.
Members of Charles Sturt’s Central Australian Expedition were the first Europeans to visit the Milparinka area when they camped for a short time on Evelyn Creek. Soon after arriving in the area they moved to Preservation Creek near Mount Poole. This interpretive centre is accommodated in a new building located between the barracks and the post office. It tells the story of the expedition and its members in illustrative text, photographs and maps.
Centre-piece of the room is a five metre long diorama with hand carved figures representing the people and animals involved in the expedition, and a feature of one wall is a life-size portrait of Sturt by artist Clark Barrett while a metal representation of Sturt’s saddle is featured on an external wall.
A touch screen display features a docuseries about Sturt and the expedition written and narrated by actor Neil Piggott and filmed and directed by Jason King Media.
Illustrating the expedition is a full length measuring chain, a sextant and telescope.
The centre provides an informative insight into one of Australia’s greatest explorations.
The Milparinka Heritage Precinct Kidman Heritage Centre is access via the Sturt Heritage Room and features story panels and photographs from the life and times of Sir Sidney Kidman.
Kidman was a prominent landholder in the far west of New South Wales and other parts of Australia, but with the expiration of his leases in this state his landownership came to an end.
In a simple but effective display the Kidman story is told.
Also featuring is a section of film shot during the 1920s during one of Kidman’s visits to properties in the far west. A comfortable couch makes the perfect spot for visitors to rest and watch.
Artworks by Clark Barrett illustrate the extent of Kidman’s landholdings as well as a scene from a station property with which Kidman would have been very familiar.
The Milparinka Archive Centre adjoins the Sturt room and contains family history material from the district as well as photographs, artefacts, documents and letters. This area provides an opportunity for visitors to research their family histories with around 2000 names represented in birth, death and marriage records.
Additional material is being added to the collection in an ongoing project.
Visitors are respectfully asked to request access from the volunteer on duty at the Visitor Centre.
Milparinka Heritage Precinct Post and Telegraph Centre will be located in the restored former post office on the southern end of Loftus Street. This building until recently was a ruin with no roof or flooring and badly damaged walls. The preservation work has created a beautiful space with tall glass doors and windows through which to view the expansive landscape outside and a skylight to allow visitors to see the cerulean blue sky above. It is a special place.
This remains and work in progress with all displays to in place by mid-2023. Visitors are still encourage to walk through the space.
This first room will feature story boards containing information about the early days of postal services in the area, including a listing of mail contracts, the names of personnel and when they were involved and some of the immense challenges faced by postal workers. Flowing through into the second room, the interpretations will discuss telegraph and telephone technology. Interactive displays will include a telegraph key and sounder and wall telephones from the early 1900s.
A switchboard which was once used in the Milparinka Hotel exchange is also on display and young visitors will be encouraged to use the tin can and string method of communication.
The remaining two rooms will be devoted to transportation and the rabbit proof fence history.
Milparinka Heritage Precinct coach, wagon and motorised transport room will also the restored post office adjacent to the telecommunications display. In this room interpretive panels will explore the history of coaches which brought mail to the area from Wilcannia and Broken Hill, the many shanty hotels and horse change stations that were necessary along the routes, as well as information about the manufacture of one of Australia’s best known coaches, the Cobb and Co.
The story progresses onto transportation by wagons and wagoneers, and the introduction around 1916 of motorised transport with Model T Fords, Brockway and Albion trucks and more.
The artefacts to be displayed include lights from a coach, a wheel-wright’s device for measuring cart wheel’s circumference and a bullock whip.
Milparinka Heritage Precinct Rabbit Proof Fence History room will be located in the restored post and telegraph building adjacent to the transportation room. A prime feature of the room will be a section of the 1880s rabbit proof fence which was formerly located at Warri Gate but has been re-erected at Milparinka in order to preserve this historic item.
Interpretive panels will relate the history of the rabbit fence from both Queensland and South Australia and the transition to a wild dog fence.
This feature is an important part of the history of the far west of New South Wales and is expected to be completed by June 2023.
Milparinka Heritage Precinct Children’s Memorial is a reflective place opposite the Milparinka Courthouse Visitor Information Centre. In researching family histories it became evident that many children died in the late 1800s and early 1900s from communicable diseases, and although their deaths were recorded at Milparinka few had headstones to record their final resting place.
As a way to respect these children a lasting memorial has been created by engraving their names into two large slabs of slate placed at the edge of a native garden. A white gravel path leads along the edge and to a granite bench on which visitors may sit and contemplate the young lives lost so long ago.
A dedication slab of granite at the entrance is inscribed with lines from Sarah William’s poem “The Old Astronomer”, Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light. I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night”. A fitting memorial given that the dark sky park is immediately adjacent.
The granite memorial slab was made possible through the bequest of a Milparinka Visiting Volunteer, the late Peter Forde and carved by sculptor and letter cutter Ian Marr.
Milparinka is a perfect place for viewing the dark night sky. There is no artificial street lighting, few buildings and is set amid hundreds of square kilometres of virtually uninhabited landscape. With clear, bright skies the Milky Way and constellations and planets are clearly visible most nights.
The Dark Sky Park has been created to enable visitors to experience the night skies in a safe environment. Set in a native garden, it features a representation of the legendary emu Kalthi by renowned sculptor Harrie Fasher through which the milky way can be seen, as well as a rotating planisphere designed by astronomer Fred Watson which allows night time viewers to identify constellations in the southern sky. The project was overseen by Marnie Ogg of Dark Sky Travellers.
For the really serious astronomers and astro-photographers a naturally elevated plateau with 360 degree uninterrupted views is located just a short distance from the Heritage Precinct. See more on Corner Country star gazing.
The Milparinka Learning in the Outback Room is located in the first of the lock-up cells adjacent to the rear of the Courthouse. This room provides information about schooling in Milparinka from the 1880s when the first school was built through to the modern day when local children study through School of the Air.
Artefacts include an old school desk, writing implements and copy books. As part of an ongoing project audio from actual School of the Air lessons will be added during 2023.
The Milparinka Health in the Outback Room is located in the second of the lock-up cells adjacent to the rear of the Courthouse. This room provides information about healthcare in Milparinka from the 1880s, the construction of the first hospital in Tibooburra and the introduction of the Flying Doctor Service (now Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS)) into the area.
There is also information about the RFDS today as it continues to be a vital provider of primary and emergency health care across the area.
The lock-up rooms are not wheel-chair accessible and help may need to be provided.
The Milparinka Heritage Precinct Albert Goldfields Mining Heritage Centre is a purpose-built centre dedicated to interpreting the region’s gold mining heritage. The building is adjacent to the adjacent to the pastoral sheds.
Within the centre story-line panels simply explain the history of mining from nearby Mount Browne through to The Granites (as Tibooburra was formerly known.)
There are also interpretive maps, timelines and explanatory information about gold mining methodologies.
A short film illustrates the techniques by miners in the 1880s while interactive models of equipment are on display, along with a number of static displays of tools and other memorabilia from the region.
A touchscreen plays audio historic recordings of former Broken Hill mayor Wally Riddiford provides insight into the life of a young man born on the goldfields.
Complimentary children’s’ worksheets are available from the Visitor Centre.
The Milparinka Heritage Precinct Rock, Mineral and Fossil Centre is a new feature of the Heritage Precinct and has been made possible through the acquisition of a collection of stunning specimens from around Australia as well as locally. The building is adjacent to the Goldfields Centre.
While the collection totals around 2000 items only a selection is on display. Those not on display will be rotated from time to time.
The collection has been catalogued by volunteer geologists who have also prepared specific descriptions definitions for each term used. This means that every rock and mineral has a succinct definition which includes compositional data and usage. A map of the localities of each sample in Australia has also been prepared.
All of the data including the map will be in digital format and will be available on touchscreen in the centre as well as on our website www.visitcornercountry.com.au when completed.
It is anticipated that children’s’ activity packs will also be available early in 2023.
Milparinka Heritage Precinct Pastoral History Shed is a purpose built open space which focuses on the history of European settlement in the far west. Beginning during the 1860s land was taken up west of the Darling River for grazing purposes. In easy to follow storylines the interpretive panels relates these events, and the challenges that lay ahead; droughts, rabbit plagues, shearers’ strikes and more.
The story-lines are accompanied by items of historical significance to the pastoral industry. Artefacts include those used by blacksmiths, fencers and shearers.
The shed and the adjoining space has a gravel “floor” and may be difficult for visitors in wheel-chairs to access without help.
The adjoining “Water-shed” explains the history of providing water across the region for livestock, including sinking wells, bores and dams. Memorabilia from the are complements the story-boards.
Milparinka Heritage Town Sculpture and Art is the product of more than twenty years’ work.
On the approach to Milparinka 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.
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 will be installed in February 2023.
Adjacent, large slate slabs by Ian Marr are inscribed with the names of children whose deaths were recorded at Milparinka from 1880 to 1920.
Loftus Street will also be the location of a wire sculpture of Charles Sturt and his horse crafted by Brian Campbell representing the challenges that Sturt faced during the expedition.
Murals and paintings by Jodi Daley, Clark Barrett and Shane Bates also form part of the collection house at the Milparinka Heritage Precinct.
Drawing on design concepts by a volunteer landscape architect the Precinct has been able to achieve the near impossible. Elevated garden beds were created using tonnes of gneiss brought in by road transport and placed strategically around the area. Then, tonnes of red loam were also brought in and the spaces between the gneiss were backfilled.
Shrubs and trees that are indigenous (native bush tucker) to the area were then planted and a dripper system of watering installed. Finally, tonnes of straw were placed around the plants as mulch.
The result in just a few years has been amazing, with substantial growth of almost all of the plants. Better still, the introduction of the red loam has brought about a few surprises. Locally grown Sturt’s Desert Peas and other wildflowers germinated in the soil naturally, providing a show of colour and beauty that was not expected.
Water receptacles encourage native birds to visit the gardens as well, including zebra finches, purple backed wrens and many more. Occasionally a wallaby family also shyly approaches when looking for a drink.
Evelyn Creek lies immediately to the east of the boundaries of Milparinka, just beyond the caravan park. It is an ephemeral creek (meaning it only runs after major rain) so it is often dry, yet home to a good deal of wildlife, especially birds.
The creek was traditionally the home for Malyangapa people but Sturt’s expedition and settlement brought about major changes. Miners used the creek to wash paydirt and gradually the waterholes silted up.
As part of the Sturt’s Steps project a portion of the western side of the creek was desilted to enable creek flows to fill it and replicate what a traditional water hole might look like.
It is an attractive natural environment; large red gums loom over the waterhole, coolabahs sit in the centre. At times it will have water but as nature demands, it does dry out.
Visitors may enjoy nature walks along this part of the creek…it is a lovely, shady, peaceful environment, but please keep in mind that it is private lease-hold and not for camping or hiking far from the Milparinka environs.
During the early days of settlement the community of Milparinka extended some distance across the landscape which today is largely barren. Dotted amongst that landscape however, and many relics of the early life on Milparinka.
Walking around this trail visitors will discover the ruins of the old school, and the mosaic that children created on the ground more than 100 years ago. There is the mystery of the underground shop that was owned by William Baker, the Royal Hotel and the Royal Standard, and the commercial bank.
Some of the most significant locations have been marked with orange and red information posts which are visible from some distance.
But every piece of the landscape tells a story which visitors are invited to discover. Depending upon how absorbed one becomes it could take more than half an hour. An audio guide is being developed. The cemetery is probably driving distance and is accessed via the airstrip (please keep vehicles to the track on the south side).
Wear walking shoes and a hat and carry a water bottle with you. Enjoy the walk.