Walgett, Outback NSW
Outback Touring & Destinations
"The yokels laughed at his hopes o'erthrown, And he stood awhile like a man in a dream; Then out of his pocket he fetched a stone, And pelted it over the silent stream -- He had been there before: he had wandered down, On a previous visit to Walgett town". Banjo Patterson (Been There Before)
Walgett likes to describe itself as 'The Gateway to the Opal Fields' because it is an ideal place to stay before heading off to the opal mining settlement of Lightning Ridge (76 km away) and the smaller opal fields at Grawin, Glengarry and the Sheepyard Opal Fields, all of which are located north-west of Walgett.
The town's name is derived from the Indigenous language and means the 'meeting of the rivers'. The two rivers are the Barwon and Namoi and coincidently, today it is also the meeting of two highways - the Kamilaroi and Castlereagh. The region is steeped in Aboriginal Culture as it was a gathering place of people from many of the surrounding 'countries' for traditional ceremonies and practises. From a European perspective, while exploring the Castlereagh River, Captain Charles Sturt came across the junction of these two rivers in February, 1829. The town site was surveyed in 1859 - and proclaimed a town 20 years later.
The advent of mechanical sheep shearing was due to local farmer Frederick Wolseley whose patented devise (March 1877) revolutionised the Australia sheep industry. The system was developed in the blacksmith shop on his property - Euroka. The first river boats (steamers) arrived in Walgett in 1861 and were still plying the river in the very early 1900's. Boats such as "Brewarrina", "Ellen", "Sturt" and "Wandering Jew" frequented Walgett's port at the Dangar Bridge and provided the mode of transport required for the developing pastoral industries of the area. Walgett, 696 km north-west of Sydney, is a pleasant outback town where the people are friendly and the sense of 'Outback' is cleverly merged with the facilities and amenities of a larger town.
Its attractive riverside location also makes it an ideal spot for fishing: Murray cod and Yellow Belly being the predominant catches. Walgett was also a location visited by the 1960's Freedom Rides as Indigenous ex-servicemen were refused entry in the RSL Club. International attention was gained for the cause after the unfortunate incident of the Riders' bus was forced off the road by an unidentified car.