Narrabri Shire

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Our History

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Between 17 and 21 Million years ago erupting volcanoes created the Nandewar Ranges and the magnificent Mt Kaputar National Park. Erosion of these mountains spawned rich fertile farming country and a strong river system, strengthened by underground Artesian waters, created a network along which Narrabri Shire towns grow and prosper.

The Kamilaroi (pronunciation: Gam–ill–a–roy) people were the first inhabitants of Narrabri Shire. Radiating from Narrabri, their land extends north to Goondiwindi, west to Lightning Ridge and south to Quirindi. Scar trees on the Wee Waa/Narrabri road, bora rings on Mt Kaputar, a sandstone baby washing area, and sandstone rubbings in the Pilliga forest attest to their presence.

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History credits explorers Sir Thomas Mitchell and Allan Cunningham with the honour of opening the way to the North West plains, to the area that is now known as Narrabri Shire. However the notorious George ‘the Barber’ Clarke, whose epithet refers to his early legitimate trade, was the first white man to seek his fortune in the area. Clarke was convicted of armed robbery, for goods totalling 40 shillings, and shipped from England in 1825 sentenced to work on a farm near Singleton, NSW. Soon after his arrival he escaped, painted himself black, took two aboriginal wives and wandered the plains naked with the natives, stealing cattle. Upon his recapture in 1831 Clarke related stories of a deep, wide navigable river called the Kindur, which flowed into a vast inland Sea. The imaginative tale may have been invented in an attempt to save his life, but it was plausible enough to prompt Sir Thomas Mitchell to press out into a virtually unknown area.

The Kindur was never discovered, but when the rivers rise in the great floods the land becomes akin to an inland sea. Mitchell’s explorations paved the way for the early settlers and wealth came to the area ‘on the sheep’s back’ and the cattle’s pastures.

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Wee Waa, the oldest town in the Namoi Valley, was proclaimed in 1847, followed by Narrabri and Boggabri in 1860. The settlers ventured across the Liverpool plains to theBoggabri, Narrabri and Wee Waa districts, ‘niver–niver’ country, as it was known by aboriginals.

Many stories of hardship and resourcefulness have evolved throughout the history of Narrabri Shire, as indeed they have all over Australia. Pioneer graves beside the Boggabri and Wee Waa roads and a most curiously positioned one beside the Newell Highway, some 25km south of Narrabri, bear out this fact.

The latter grave is that of Aboriginal/Chinese stockman William Hanes who died during a flood in the early 1950s. Flood waters made the sandy track to Narrabri impassable so the Coroner granted special permission to bury Hames on public land. According to legend Hames’ horse remained his faithful companion, even in death, never straying far from the gravesite.