Condobolin, New South Wales
Condobolin, located very close to the geographic centre of New South Wales is a country town with a population of around 3,500. It is located at 33º05'16.98"S 147º08'42.51"E, some 100 km west of Parkes and 463 km west of Sydney, at 189 m above sea level. It is sited at the junction of the Lachlan River and Goobang Creek. The town's picnic horse races are held in February, and the agricultural show in August.
Wool, wheat, sheep, cattle, fruit and mixed farming are at the economic heart of this district on the red-soil plains. Tourism development is minimal because the town is not on a major road or located near a major centre. One of the major attractions to the town, the man-made Gum Bend Lake, was used for water-skiing and other recreational activities that drew a relatively large number of visitors. The recent drought over a number of years has meant, however, that the lake has dried up, with little prospect of being refilled in the immediate future.
Before white settlement the area was in the territory of the Wiradjuri people, from whose language the town's name derives. It is believed to mean "hop bush" or "hop brush" (although some believe it means "shallow crossing"). The Wiradjuri people are still a strong presence in Condobolin.
The first known European to travel through the area was the explorer John Oxley, in 1817. Thomas Mitchell, another explorer, camped at the junction of the Lachlan and the Goobang Creek in 1836. Squatting began soon after. (In Australian history, a squatter was a person who, initially without legal claim, occupied large tracts of Crown land to graze livestock. They gained usage of the land by being the first — indeed, frequently the only — Europeans in the district.)
It is said that an early landowner was Benjamin Boyd, and William Lee occupied the 'Condoublin' (spelled 'Condooblin' in 1848) run in 1844. In 1853, on the northern bank of the Lachlan River, reserve was made on a portion of that run.
Although gazetted in 1859, for more than two decades the town of Condobolin was little more than a stopover and river ford for drovers moving stock from the north and west of New South Wales to Victoria, but subdivision of large holdings in 1880 caused their slow break-up. Free settlers began to move up from the south, fruit and wheat cultivation began, and the town began to develop.
This development was aided by the discovery of copper at Melrose in 1885, with the increased through-traffic bringing a boost to Condobolin, which was declared a municipality in 1890.
The town's economy was further bolstered by the discovery to the north-west of gold at "Overflow Station" (immortalised in Banjo Paterson's poem "Clancy of the Overflow") in 1896. A major copper and gold mine operated at Condobolin between 1898 and around 1910.
The railway arrived in 1898 and Condobolin was the railhead for the central west when the railway reached the town in 1898. This continued until the line to Broken Hill was completed in 1927. Agricultural production received a further boost when Wyangala Dam was established on the Lachlan in 1935.
There are a number of items of interest to those visiting Condobolin. The Reservoir Hill lookout gives an impressive view of the town and surrounding districts, and the nearby cemetery boasts Chinese graves and monuments.
Nearby Mount Tilga, 8 km north of Condobolin, is claimed to be the geographical dead-centre of NSW, and offers broad views of the district to those willing to make the climb.
Around 40 km west of the town is an historically significant Aboriginal burial site, believed to be that of a Lachlan tribal chief. The original carved trees that surrounded the site (which predates John Oxley's 1817 visit to the region) have been removed and replaced by rough replicas.
When it is full, Gum Bend Lake offers boating, swimming and water-skiing. The nearby Lachlan River is a popular fishing spot, in which cod, perch and catfish may be caught.
Fairfax Digital. n.d. "Condobolin." Walkabout. Retrieved 16 August 2008 from http://www.walkabout.com.au/locations/NSWCondobolin.shtml