DESTINATIONS - EVERY LITTLE TOWN HAS SOMETHING
On January 20th, 2017, Broken Hill became Australia’s first National Heritage city. That sounds impressive, but you could be forgiven for asking: “What does that really mean?”
The Australian Government’s
National Heritage List is a collection of 103 natural, historic and indigenous places which have been deemed to have ‘outstanding significance to the nation’.
The List includes the natural wonders Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef, as well as important architectural places such as the site of the first Government House and the Sydney Opera House.
However, never before has an entire city been awarded National Heritage status, which makes the addition of the City of Broken Hill unique.
The process began when Broken Hill’s Professor Simon Molesworth, chairman of the International National Trusts Organisation and a resident of the city for the last 14 years, became embroiled in a heated campaign to save some of Broken Hill’s most important heritage buildings.
These early battles allied him with the then Council sustainability manager, Peter Oldson and the City’s heritage consultant, Liz Vines. Together they formed a plan to nominate Broken Hill as Australia’s first National Heritage City.
Nominating a whole city is quite different from nominating a single entity, such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but the team was confident that it could be done.
Broken Hill heritage
Discovered in 1883, Broken Hill is home to the world’s largest deposits of silver, lead and zinc and has – yielded more than 300 million tonnes of ore since mining began.
Early revenues from Broken Hill were largely responsible for the growth and development of cities and towns across New South Wales and Australia, with the city contributing ‘hundreds of millions of dollars to government administration, defence, education and research’, according to the Department
of the Environment.
Although silver, lead and zinc are by far the most profitable minerals to be pulled out of the ground, Broken Hill is also home to a veritable ‘mineralogical rainforest’ with approximately 300 mineral species offering a unique glimpse into the planet’s geological history.
However, it is the people of Broken Hill that have arguably contributed most to the Heritage Listing. Over 130 years, the rights of many thousands of workers have given birth to many laws and provisions that we take for granted today.
Broken Hill was the birthplace of occupational health and safety and the 35-hour working week and the spread of nationwide worker support resulting from strikes in 1908 and 1909.
Although mining undoubtedly laid the foundations for Broken Hill, other industries have sprung up over the years. The city is well known for its artistic community, which was made famous around the world by local miner-turned-painter Pro Hart and now houses more art galleries per capita than anywhere else in Australia.
The City has also become a mecca for the film industry, with movies such as Mad Max 2 and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and television productions such as The Code and Outback ER using the city and surrounds as their backdrop.
All of these elements make Broken Hill a truly unique Australian city, one that its current mayor, Wincen Cuy, describes as “a city with a soul”.
Tracing his ancestry back to pre-Broken Hill era – his great-grandfather was born on Mount Gipps station, 10 years before Broken Hill was founded – Mayor Cuy was – ecstatic when the National Heritage Listing was finally confirmed, 10 years after its submission.
“The award belongs to the people,” he said. “Everyone should take a piece of it and feel proud that they’ve been part of Broken Hill’s history, and that they’re going to play a major part in Broken Hill’s future.”