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Wilcannia
New South Wales
WilcanniaCouncil.JPG
Central Darling Council Chambers
Population: 549
Postcode: 2836
Coordinates: 31°33′25″S 143°22′45″E / 31.55694°S 143.37917°E / -31.55694; 143.37917Coordinates: 31°33′25″S 143°22′45″E / 31.55694°S 143.37917°E / -31.55694; 143.37917
Elevation: 75.0 m (246 ft)
Location:
LGA: Central Darling Shire
County: Young County
State District: Barwon
Federal Division: Parkes
Mean Max Temp Mean Min Temp Annual Rainfall
26.6 °C
80 °F
12.0 °C
54 °F
263.9 mm
10.4 in

Wilcannia is a small town located within the Central Darling Shire in north western New South Wales, Australia. This was the third largest inland port in the country during the great river boat era of the mid-19th century. At the 2016 census, Wilcannia had a population of 549.

History

The area lies in the traditional lands of the Barkindji people, who call the river "Baaka". The name Wilcannia is said to be derived from an Aboriginal term for either "gap in the bank where floodwaters escape" or "wild dog". Neither meaning has been linguistically verified.

In 1835, explorer Major Thomas Mitchell was the first European to the region, in which he traced the Darling River to what is now Menindee. In June 1866, the township of Wilcannia was proclaimed. In 1871, the population was 264, and grew to 1,424 by 1881. During the 1880s, Wilcannia reached its peak, and had a population of 3000 and 13 hotels and its own newspaper, the Western Grazier. It was, with Wentworth, Echuca, Mannum and Goolwa, one of the major Murray-Darling river ports which played a vital part in the transport of goods, notably wool and wheat, in the days of the paddle-steamers.

A visitor to the town described the river scene in 1890.

There are several wharves (so-called) which were merely graduated slopes cut out of the river bank, and in the wool season the river, in their vicinity, is thronged with steamers and barges, waiting for or unloading the season's clip, for the bulk of it goes away either to Bourke, for Sydney, or to Wentworth, or Goolwa.

A barge, laden with 1,200 to 2,000 bales of wool is a pretty sight; and a still more interesting spectacle is a string of 30 or 40 camels, each carrying two bales, proceeding into town from some far back station.

Geography

Wilcannia is located where the Barrier Highway crosses the Darling River, 965 kilometres (600 mi) from Sydney. The environment is borderline semi-arid to desert with an annual rainfall of 255 millimetres (10.0 in). Wilcannia is located within the Darling Riverine Plains Bioregion (IBRA classification, Department of Environment), consisting of landscapes adapted to flooding. Common species include River Red Gum, Yellow Box, Oldman Saltbush and Lignum.

The surrounding area is very sparsely settled by pastoralists who have large land holdings, used primarily to run sheep. These holdings fall in the Western Division and the majority are held as 99-year leases.

Climate

Wilcannia has a semi-arid climate with hot summers and mild to cool winters. Mean maximum daily temperature in summer is 34 °C and in winter is 19 °C. The highest temperature recorded in Wilcannia was 50.0 °C (122.0 °F) on 11 January 1939. This was during the severe heatwave of January 1939.

Climate data for Wilcannia (Reid Street)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 48.2
(118.8)
47.1
(116.8)
44.4
(111.9)
38.4
(101.1)
31.3
(88.3)
29.3
(84.7)
30.6
(87.1)
32.4
(90.3)
39.4
(102.9)
40.7
(105.3)
45.2
(113.4)
46.8
(116.2)
48.2
(118.8)
Average high °C (°F) 35.4
(95.7)
34.6
(94.3)
31.3
(88.3)
26.2
(79.2)
21.2
(70.2)
17.7
(63.9)
17.1
(62.8)
19.5
(67.1)
23.5
(74.3)
27.4
(81.3)
31.2
(88.2)
33.9
(93)
26.6
(79.9)
Average low °C (°F) 19.8
(67.6)
19.3
(66.7)
16.2
(61.2)
11.7
(53.1)
7.9
(46.2)
5.4
(41.7)
4.2
(39.6)
5.6
(42.1)
8.4
(47.1)
12.2
(54)
15.6
(60.1)
18.2
(64.8)
12.0
(53.6)
Record low °C (°F) 9.2
(48.6)
8.8
(47.8)
6.4
(43.5)
1.8
(35.2)
-2.5
(27.5)
-2.8
(27)
-5.0
(23)
-3.3
(26.1)
-0.5
(31.1)
3.4
(38.1)
3.9
(39)
8.4
(47.1)
-5.0
(23)
Rainfall mm (inches) 25.9
(1.02)
26.5
(1.043)
24.7
(0.972)
17.1
(0.673)
23.6
(0.929)
22.2
(0.874)
18.4
(0.724)
17.5
(0.689)
15.9
(0.626)
25.2
(0.992)
20.9
(0.823)
26.0
(1.024)
263.9
(10.39)
Avg. precipitation days 2.9 2.9 2.7 2.7 4.1 4.6 4.4 4.2 3.4 4.0 3.4 3.2 42.5
Source: Bureau of Meteorology

Significant weather

On 9 November 1950, a severe thunderstorm with damaging winds and large hail the size of cricket balls struck the town. Two people were injured, dozens of homes lost their roofs and nearly every house in town was damaged due to the large hail.

Demography

From the 2016 Census, Wilcannia had a population of 549 with 407 (74.4%) people being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent, mostly from the Barkindji nation. Wilcannia has 223 private dwellings. The town was listed as one of the most socially disadvantaged areas of New South Wales according to the 2015 Dropping Off The Edge report.

Media

The town's social issues were highlighted in the BBC3 documentary Reggie Yates: Hidden Australia "Episode 1: Black in the Outback", first broadcast online on 16 January 2017. In March 2017 the BBC, in response to complaints about the biased and misleading view portrayed, investigated the claims and suspended the production company pending the outcome of the review. In June 2017 the suspension was confirmed for 6 months, covering all new commissions and development. "It was a serious breach of the BBC's Editorial Guidelines and the high standards of accuracy and fairness we expect of programme makers," the BBC Trust stated. The BBC and Sundog both issued apologies.

In 2017, in a counter-response, ABC Radio National highlighted Wilcannia's other non-negative social aspects in a 6-part series called "Positively Wilcannia" by The Real Thing.

Notable people

  • Annie Moysey, known as Wilcannia's Grandmother.
  • The Wilcannia Mob, a hip-hop musical group of five Indigenous Australians.

Images for kids


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