Broken Hill – Oasis Mining and Art in Outback Australia

As you fly over the Australian Opal Ring outback, there is little you can see except the occasional kangaroo or emu. Then as your plane descends, you will see a large green town in the middle of the desert: this is the town of Broken Hill. Located far west of the Australian state of New South Wales, Broken Hill is a large mining town that since the 1880s has produced large quantities of silver, lead and zinc.

Silver Discovery

For thousands of years the area of ​​Broken Hill has been home to the Indigenous people of Willyama and Barkinji. The British explorer Charles Sturt traversed the area in 1844, searching for rumors of an inland sea. The clergy came in the 1850s and 1860s.

In 1883 a German-born border patrolman, Charles Rasp, took geological samples found containing silver chloride. Rasp and a group of six others bought most of the Broken Hill area. In January 1885 they hit the jackpot and found one of the world’s largest silver, lead and zinc mines. The body of the metal was about 5 miles incredibly long. Rasp and his colleagues are incredibly rich. They founded Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP) which would be Australia’s largest company.

To transport ore to sea for export, a railway had to be constructed at the seaport near Port Pirie, South Australia. The railway line was built by the South Australian government to the New South Wales border. When the New South Wales government refused to build a railway line from Broken Hill to connect the South Australian line, the mining company built its own private route to the South Australian border. The working conditions of the miners were shocking for many years. Hundreds died in mining accidents and diseases such as diarrhea, typhoid and lung diseases. For this reason there were many unions and many strikes, and a strong trade union movement was formed in Broken Hill.

A visitor today can check out one of the oldest mines, Delprat’s Mine. The tour takes two hours and guests wear a helmet and a light from the minework before descending into the mines in one of the miner’s cages. The streets themselves are further monuments to Broken Hill’s long history, with mine-related names such as Argent Street, Iodine Street, Bromide Street, Oxide Street and Cobalt Street.

Historic Buildings

Broken Hill has a rich heritage of magnificent buildings, many of which were built with profits from the mining industry. On Chloride Street several of these buildings form an exciting street: the red brick office (1890), the City Hall (1890), the Police Station (1890), the Federal style Technical College (1900) and the Court House (1889).

Several hotels that used to cater for dry miners over the years are worth a visit – for example, the great Palace Hotel (1889) with its long, cozy balcony and its steel foundations.

On Sulphide Street you can see Trades Hall, Mt. St Joseph’s Convent of Mercy, Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Cathedral and Gothic revival Wesley Church.

Broken Hill also has Australia’s first mosque, the Afghani Mosque (1891), built for Afghan and Indian camel drivers, who were brought to the area to assist camels providing transportation in desert areas where horses could not travel.

Art Galleries

Broken Hill is home to the Brushmen of the Bush school of artists that includes great artists and some talented artists like Pro Hart and Jack Absalom. These artists are usually self-taught and are influenced by the theme and way of the forests around the city. Many of the Brushmen of the Bush have their own shows that welcome public visits.

Indigenous Aboriginal art is housed in the Thantakali Aboriginal Arts and Crafts Center, and another beautiful art collection can be viewed at Broken Hill City and Art Gallery.

Extraordinary School and Medical Services

For many rural residents, such as those who live in wool and cattle stations (farms) far from any city or village, life can be lonely.

Two distinct Australian services have been established to help these people: the Air School, which provides courses for rural students with two-way radio, and the Royal Flying Doctor Service, whose small aircraft fly doctors and nurses to see patients at stations and take out any seriously ill people.

Visitors are welcome to check out both of these services.

Parks and gardens

Broken Hill is often referred to as the desert oasis. This is true. The village has beautiful parks and leafy gardens like Sturt Park and Riddiford Arboretum. At last you see examples of Sturt’s Desert Pea, the flower symbol of South Australia and Broken Hill.

The city is completely protected from the greenery surrounding the city and was founded in 1936 to protect the city from sandstorms. The whole city is now guaranteed to provide permanent water supply to keep its vegetation, with a pipeline from the Menindee Lakes built in 1952.

Side Tour Out into Outback

Broken Hill is a great base from which to explore the beautiful countryside of Australia. The former mining town and now the semi-ghost town of Silverton, 15 miles from Broken Hill, is easily accessible and not only famous for tourists but also for filmmakers. Films like Mad Max II and The Adventures of Priscilla, Desert Queen were shot there. You can see a picture of Max Max’s V8 interceptor parked outside the Silverton hotel.

Several national parks are located near Broken Hill, including Mootwingee National Park, a truly unique wilderness area inhabited by Indigenous people for 40,000 years. In Mootwingee there are many opportunities to discover Aboriginal culture and to see the Australian.

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