Broken Hill still works

If you’ve ever seen a Mad Max/Road Warrior movie (the title depends on where you live), then you will know something of the terrain of the far west New South Wales city of Broken Hill, as that was the area in which the movies were filmed.

Despite its name, Broken Hill is anything but a rundown ghost town. In fact, it is a very vibrant, culturally rich city which, although remote, is a very interesting place to visit.
Broken Hill is Australia’s oldest continually productive mining town, and, at one stage was the world’s biggest supplier of silver. In fact, so rich are the ore bodies here, which comprise silver, zinc and iron ore, that it was the first home of the world’s biggest mining company, BHP Billiton, the BHP meaning Broken Hill Proprietary.

Not surprisingly, Broken Hill is also called Silver City, and although it is firmly situated in New South Wales, is much closer to South Australia’s capital Adelaide than it is to Sydney, that Adelaide is considered by its locals to be Broken Hill’s de facto capital.

Thanks to an incident which occurred in 1915, Broken Hill is the only place in Australia that has seen a wartime land attack on its citizens when a couple of Indians carried out a self-styled attack on the British Empire by firing on a group of picnickers, killing four and wounding six. There have been several attacks on Australia by air and sea during wartime, but no other attack over land.

During World War II Broken Hill was one of the most secure places in the world, and, undoubtedly, one of the richest small towns in the world. Following the threatened invasion of several countries by Germany, the gold reserves of several European countries were transported to Broken Hill, where the prisoners were transferred to another gaol and Broken Hill prison turned into a giant vault where these gold reserves were held. As far as I know, this story has never officially been recorded, but I know it to be true because my grandfather was in charge of the gold reserves, and my mother lived at the gaol when it was a very secure vault.

The country around Broken Hill is typical desert that is both extraordinarily harsh yet astoundingly beautiful. Because of its beauty, Broken Hill has attracted many artists who’ve chosen to live there, the best known of whom was Pro Hart, whose works are still on display. Pro hart led a number of artists who captured the magnificent images of the desert and town, and today there are many galleries around town. One of the attractions near the town is the Living Desert Sculpture Symposium, which is a flora and fauna sanctuary where 12 imposing sandstone sculptures leave an imposing imprint on the landscape.

1 comment to Broken Hill still works

  • Peter Walker

    I can confirm your story about the vault in Broken Hill. My grandfather, William Pike a carpenter and builder, was spirited away from Sydney to help construct the vault. The family did not know of his whereabouts or what he was up to other than that he was on government business. It wasn’t until after the war that he told his story

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