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Tibooburra is a village in the far northwest of New South Wales, Australia, 1,187 kilometres (738 mi) from the state capital, Sydney. It is most frequently visited by tourists on their way to national parks in the area. At the 2011 census, Tibooburra had a population of 262. Although facilities in Tibooburra are quite limited, fuel, meals and a range of accommodation options are available. All significant support services (medical, dental, hospital, retail, mechanical, commercial) are based in Broken Hill.
New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service have a Tourist Information Centre in the township. There is also a Police Station.
Explorer Charles Sturt was one of the first Europeans to visit the area in 1844. He spent six months trapped by drought at Depot Glen, south of Tibooburra. He then tried to travel north west and was defeated by the desert. Burke and Wills also went through the area in 1861 on the journey north towards the Gulf of Carpentaria. It was the search for Burke and Wills that led to the opening up of the country for the pastoral industry.
Following a gold rush to the Albert Goldfields (centred at nearby Milparinka), gold was found around Tibooburra in 1880. At first the area was called The Granites. When the Goldfield's Warden, William Henry John Slee, resident at Milparinka, had a town laid out in 1881 he named it Tibooburra. Although he named the streets after European explorers, he preferred the Aboriginal name for the locality for the town. Slee had his observations on Aboriginal customs in the Tibooburra region published by the Linnean Society of NSW. The town's name could be derived from an aboriginal word for heap of boulders. In 1887 Slee reported that there were 19 gold puddling machines at work, with a population at and about Tibooburra of 250. It was said that gold was found exposed in the streets after heavy rain.
By the turn of the 20th Century (1900) the gold mining activity had waned, to be replaced by the pastoral industry. Sheep stations, necessarily large in area due to the aridity, were the mainstay of Tibooburra until the 1980's, providing most of the social and commercial activity. For over a century the township had remained remote because of rough unsealed roads, but with the popularity of 4WD driving, and ever increased bitumen roads, it became within comfortable reach of the tourism industry.
In more recent times musicians and artists, in particular Clifton Pugh, became fascinated with this remote outback region. Pugh often stayed at the Family Hotel (opened 1882) where he painted a number of murals, drawings and sketches on an inside wall of the hotel.
Tibooburra has an arid, desert climate with temperatures soaring above 40°Celsius (104°F) in summer, often reaching as high as 47°C (117°F). Temperatures are milder in winter, averaging around 20°C (68°F) in the daytime. These extreme temperatures make Tibooburra the hottest town in New South Wales, as reported on nightly news bulletins. Rainfall is scant throughout the year, apart from the occasional thunderstorm, though in March 1949 and January 1974 the town received around 390 millimetres (15 in) or twice its average annual rainfall. In its driest year of 1940, only 50 millimetres (2.0 in) fell for the whole year.
Apart from the arid landscape, the main natural tourist attraction is the remarkable granite rock outcrops which erupt immediately beside (and even among) the town streets. Historic buildings, harking back to the pioneering era, are found about the town. Nearby is Sturt National Park, which incorporates Cameron Corner, where the borders of three States meet; Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales. Although there is a "settlement" at Cameron Corner, services there are even more limited.
The town's real highlight is the Family Hotel, built in 1883, which is owned by Dan and Kathy Toole. A few decades ago artists, fascinated by the desert, came to the town to paint. They seem to have felt that any flat surface was worthy of their daubings because there are still original works by Clifton Pugh, Russell Drysdale and Rick Amor on the walls of the pub.
Tibooburra Keeping Place
Located in Briscoe Street, the Keeping Place features a display of fauna, local photographs, and indigenous artefacts of wood and stone from the Wadigali, Wongkumara and Malyangapa tribes. There are also arts and crafts for sale.
Tibooburra Pioneer Park
At the end of the main street is the Tibooburra Pioneer Park which was established in 1999. The main attraction in the park is a full-size whaleboat (by Anthony Hamilton) perched on the top of some poles. This is a replica of the whaleboat Charles Sturt hauled across inland Australia on a wagon with the intention of using it to row around the continent's 'inland sea'. It was abandoned at Depot Glen near the current site.
The Church of the Corner
This church was erected in 1963 by the Australian Inland Mission now succeeded by the Uniting Church Frontier services. It is open for use by visiting clergy by arrangement. It is a church for all the people of the area.
Tibooburra Outback School of the Air
Tibooburra Outback School of the Air is the village's educational provider, servicing both the local residents and the children of property owners in the area. It was established as a Distance Education Centre in 1991 by Tony Bush after being approved for the project in 1990. Prior to that students attended in town, and students on properties were educated through central schools further afield in towns such as Broken Hill. The school itself was established in 1886. No high school facilities exist in the town, children travel 365 km to the nearest high school, do home school, or attend boarding schools.
Once a term students from the external properties attend a 'mini-school' at the school. Mini-schools typically have themes (such as pirates or the circus) and consist of a range of fun and educational activities. Out of town families also receive two home visits a year, in which a teacher (or teachers) and students visit and spend the day on the property.
In 2004 the school switched from radio based education to the Satellite Education Program. This is a unique school of the air in the sense that the kids on the outlying properties actually interact with a real class of children in the Tibooburra Outback School of the Air. It is the only dual mode school in Australia. It can be toured at a cost of $2 per person and $4 per family. The best time to inspect is in the morning when the classes are in the room where radio contact is made with the outlying students. The air lesson times are Monday-Wednesday 9.00am - 12.30pm, Thursday 9.00am - 2.00pm, Friday has school assembly on the air from 9.00am - 10.00 am. On Tuesdays some of the students from outlying areas come in because it is the Royal Flying Doctor day. They operate on VHF radio. Over the road is the Bush Children's Hostel where children can stay while they attend the school for special functions.
Golden Gully, adjacent Dead Horse Gully camping ground, is a reconstruction of mining sites and methods with explanatory plaques. The turnoff is 1 km north of Tibooburra. 25 km east of town along the Wanaaring Rd, at the south-eastern section of the park, is Mt Wood homestead and an outdoor display of items from the old Mt Wood station, including a whim ( a device for drawing water from deep wells in the days before bores and windmills), a wool scourer and other old machinery. The old courthouse in Tibooburra itself is being converted into a museum to house indoor artifacts from the homestead (1884).
The rangers at the National Parks and Wildlife Service office in Briscoe St can advise on places to visit and suitable routes. Doubling as a local information centre it has pamphlets relating to both walking and driving trails through the park. There are two self-guided drives which take a number of hours and provide a good overview of the territory - Gorge Loop (100 km) and the Jump-Up Loop Road (110 km), the latter taking in the ruins of Mt King homestead and woolshed. There are clearly demarcated walking trails with interpretive signs to the summit of Mt Wood where the view is excellent, and from Fort Grey where Sturt's party built a stockade to protect their supplies and prevent their sheep from wandering. At the rest area 1 km south of Olive Downs Homestead (1880s) there are two Jump-Up walks.
Great Dingo Fence
Sturt National Park is bounded by a portion of the world's longest fence, the Great Dingo Fence, which spans 5614 km from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the Indian Ocean. Originally constructed by the Queensland government to halt a rabbit invasion encroaching from the south it is still maintained in order to keep wild dogs from sheep grazing areas.
The park also stretches across to Cameron Corner (named after NSW Lands Department surveyor John Brewer Cameron) where NSW, SA and Qld all meet. 140 km north-west of Tibooburra, it was once a well-known stopover point for those headed to Innamincka along the Strzelecki Track. It will take a couple of hours to reach the corner. Make sure you always carry two spare tyres and plenty of water.
The best time to visit the park is from April to September. There are four camping areas - Dead Horse Gully, Mt Wood, Olive Downs and Fort Grey. All have toilets, barbecue facilities and water but no showers.
Remember, the local roads are gravel and can be hazardous or impassable after wet weather. Phone the Roads and Traffic Authority on (08) 8087 0660 for an up-to-date report on their condition. Also, be sure you have a reliable and detailed map.