Long before Milparinka was proclaimed the first town of the Albert Goldfields in early 1880 it was at the crossroads of many of the region’s traditional Aboriginal storylines. In the dry desert areas life revolves around water so the waterhole on the creek on which Milparinka was established is likely to have been significant for the Malyaangapa people.
In 1845 Charles Sturt’s expedition camped on the creek (named the Evelyn) for a few days before relocating further into the Grey Range to Preservation Creek. Forced to remain for six months, Sturt’s expedition built a cairn on top of a prominent hill which remains today.
In 1880 gold was discovered in the area and Milparinka’s waterhole was used by the miners to wash their paydirt, as well as for living. Hundreds of people flocked to the Goldfields in those early days, but the number diminished with the realisation of the hardships to be faced, only to surge again when a new deposit was discovered.
From a small, random collection of tents adjacent to the creek Milparinka grew into a substantial township with surveyed streets, public amenities such as a police station, courthouse, school, post office and hotels. But it was a short-lived existence. Gold mining had peaked, and when World War One broke out many of the young men in the district enlisted. By the end of the war life in Milparinka had changed for ever.
The remnants of the sandstone buildings remained, but the majority of the people had gone.
In 1984 interest in preserving the courthouse and other public buildings led to a revival for the old township. The Milparinka Hotel continues to trade, a caravan and camping area has been established and the Milparinka Heritage Precinct has developed into an exciting, multi-faceted interpretive experience. It should not be missed during a visit to the Corner Country.
Designed by James Barnet and built in 1896 the courthouse has been restored and now survives in stunning condition. Three rooms are dedicated to aspects of Milparinka and the region’s heritage whilst the fourth is the “heart of the precinct”, the local Information Centre and Souvenir shop where friendly volunteers meet with visitors to the Precinct.
Entering the courthouse from the rear, the first room is dedicated to the Malyangaapa people, the traditional owners of the area, whilst the adjacent room is dedicated to Charles Sturt’s expedition, the first Europeans to visit the area in 1845.
The main court room is an expansive, austere space, its architecture is stunning, and it has been dedicated to interpreting and illustrating some of the stories of people who made Milparinka and the district home.
The Barracks’ Museum and Family History Research Centre
The adjacent building on Loftus Street was constructed in 1882 as the police station, police barracks and the first courthouse. Today it still has several important public functions; the main room is a museum space with artefacts from many aspects of life in the area whilst a smaller room is dedicated to the Anzacs who enlisted during WW1, and family history research.
Behind the Barracks is the old police lockup of two cells, heavy-duty doors and a strong bar lock designed to temporarily incarcerate offenders. Serious criminals were transported to Wilcannia.
Use for the Lockup is in transition, currently a gallery for local and regional art.
Further along Loftus Street from the Barracks is an empty space which will be transformed into a new interpretive area at some point in the future.
The old post/telegraph office
At the end of Loftus Street are the remains of the former post office, built in 1907. It is a beautiful sandstone building for which plans are being drawn up to either restore or preserve, and re-purpose as additional museum spaces. These will be subjects such as the pastoral settlement of the region, Sir Sidney Kidman in the Corner Country, the history of the wild dog fence, education, health as well as post and telecommunications.
Caravan and Camping area
On the east side of the Precinct is a caravan and camping area with an ablution block and laundry. There are four powered caravan sites and fire-pits.
The area extends toward Evelyn Creek where a natural waterhole has been created through the removal of silt and rubbish. It will be landscaped with additional camp sites and pits.
A heritage garden space links the Precinct with the camp grounds, with recently planted native shrub and tree species, areas for seating and a bird bath. A camp kitchen and further garden spaces are planned for this area.
Albert Goldfields Mining Heritage Centre
This is an all-new purpose built centre. The Corner Country has a rich mining heritage and every effort has been taken to ensure that within this space the stories told remain true to the history.
Behind the Mining Heritage Centre are two farm sheds which house further information about the settlement of the area, pastoralism, water and droughts.
Milparinka Heritage Mural
A mural which tells the story of Milparinka has been prepared to wrap two sides of one of the sheds and will be installed late in 2020.
Located near the Mining Heritage Centre public toilets are maintained daily during the tourist season by our volunteers.
Heritage Walking Trail
Milparinka has a heritage trail that covers an area of about 5 hectares and is outlined on a sheet available at the Information Centre. Points of interest are the old school coat-of-arms mosaic, the under-ground tank behind the Baker’s Store, the ruin of the Commercial Bank and a landscape that is an archaeologist’s dream.
The local cemetery is further to the SW of the township, but is a place of great interest. The names of more than 300 people were recorded as having died at Milparinka in the years from 1880 to 1920. Few headstones remain, but it is worth the walk, or drive, to visit.
2020/21 will also see the establishment of an astronomy viewing area in Milparinka. The will be located on the plateau on the western edge of the town and feature interpretive panels depicting the night sky as would have been seen by local Aboriginal groups as well as Sturt and the Europeans who followed.
Fees and charges
Entry to all areas of the Milparinka Heritage Precinct is $5 per adult. Children under 16 are free. Activity sheets are available for the children to take with them.
Camping charges include access to the showers and toilets. $20 per van per night, $25 per van per night for a powered site. Showers only are $5 per person.
The historic Milparinka Hotel is within close proximity to all of the facilities. Motel and hotel accommodation, great meals and cold drinks are available at the hotel.
The town has its own airstrip and pilots can taxi almost to the hotel.