Old-timers reckon that, once you’re out the Back o’ Bourke, you are in the dinkum Aussie outback
Certainly, neither Charles Sturt nor fellow explorer Thomas Mitchell had much to say in the way of compliments about the region. Indeed, the only building completed by Mitchell was a shanty fort to protect his men from the unwelcome attentions of the local Aborigines. The original fort crumbled in to dust, but it has been recreated as a tourist curiosity on the outskirts of the town.
And, despite the tyranny of distance and the odds, Bourke has survived as an important trading centre in the parched west.
Once a vital Darling River port on the paddle steamer run, Bourke really hit its straps in 1885 when the railway arrived. Suddenly, bales of local wool which once took weeks to reach Adelaide by steamer could be in Sydney within days, and it wasn’t long before Bourke was acclaimed as the world’s largest wool-trading centre.
An Aboriginal carving honours the memory of humanitarian Fred Hollows who ran a pioneer eye clinic in Bourke. Bourke is graced with a number of historically significant buildings, but the standout is the magnificently restored Lands Building which began life as a court house in 1885 and is now used as government offices.
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