Broken Hill makes the cut

A flying visit - Broken Hill 7

Broken Hill Trades Hall.

What does it take to become the first heritage listed city?

Ten years of active campaigning by the National Trust, Broken Hill City Council and environmental lawyer Simon Molesworth, paid off last week when Broken Hill, the “Oasis of the West”, was named the first and only entire Australian city or town on the National Heritage List. Situated in a striking desert landscape, home to an outstanding collection of historic buildings and central to the industrial development of Australia, Broken Hill was recognised as a site “of outstanding national heritage value to the Australian nation.”

The path to heritage listing has not been easy for the city. Broken Hill City Council nominated the city in 2005 and the Australian Heritage Council embarked on an “exhaustive” series of assessments such as a “significance threshold”, judging significance and importance of a place’s heritage values. There was also initial hesitation from the mining industry concerning potential ongoing conservation costs. All parties have now come on board to realise the goal of achieving heritage status.

... the birthplace of Australia’s union movement, the eight-hour work day and the world’s largest mining company Broken Hill Proprietary.

Broken Hill’s place in Australian history is now undisputed. It is the birthplace of Australia’s union movement, the eight-hour work day and the world’s largest mining company Broken Hill Proprietary. In 1885, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited (now BHP Billiton) began mining silver and lead in the area. The 1888 BHP share price surge saw Broken Hill’s Argent Street likened to New York’s Wall Street, with BHP shares topping out at 400 pounds. 1907 saw Broken Hill named as the second largest settlement in NSW, with the population peaking at around 35,000 in 1915.

There were several downturns over the years and while lead, zinc and silver continue to be mined, the heritage listing will provide a much-needed tourism boost. Cultural tourists will flock to see the evidence of city’s early prosperous years in the outstanding array of heritage architecture that has become synonymous with Broken Hill.

... the heritage listing will provide a much-needed tourism boost.

The city is also recognised for its artistic community such as the ‘Brushmen of the Bush’ including Pro Hart, Jack Absalom, Hugh Schulz, Eric Minchin and John Pickup. There are more than 30 art galleries, with work by artists inspired by the town and surrounding landscapes. These captivating spaces range from the civic splendour of the oldest regional gallery in NSW, Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery, to more intimate offerings that are part of artists’ homes and studios.

There are also numerous museums that capture the memory of the Broken Hill. The mining story is on display at The Albert Kersten Mining & Minerals. Another great museum that captures the heritage of Broken Hill is the Sulphide Street Railway and History Museum. This is actually four museums for the price of one: the Broken Hill Migrant Museum, the Hospital Museum, the Ron Carter Transport Pavilion and the Triple Chance Mineral Collection. It is also home to a range of railway attractions, including the Silver City Comet and a selection of restored gems from the Silverton Tramway Company.


Taking a trip to Broken Hill? Then walk our New Frontiers Trail or find out about all the museums in the area with The best of Broken Hill.


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The Department of the Environment’s Heritage Listing

ABC’s Explainer about the Heritage Listing

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