Back O’Bourke Exhibition Centre

We had heard good things about the Back O’Bourke Exhibition Centre as it shows the legends of the backcountry but for us it wasn’t anything special. In every room there was an audio of some type and the walls were filled with information. There was very little else to look at so everyone stood in the same spot reading while the audio played loudly in the background.

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In one room you placed small wood pieces onto a platform and a video would tell you about the piece. You used headsets for that one so that wasn’t too bad.

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Everyone seemed to be moving at the same pace so Adrian and I waited for everyone to leave the room before we moved on. The centre is set in 3 different buildings. In one room there is an 180o look of the river. You get to move the picture around to see everything. Ok I was impressed with this bit of technology.

Most of the rooms are set very dark so if you are like me with poor eyesight it makes it hard to read the material. I don’t know why they do that. The information on the walls didn’t run in order and seemed to jump about. In the end I was just irritated with it and waited outside for Adrian to finish.

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I know I am being a bit unfair to the centre as I am sure a lot of people would find it very interesting. “If you know Bourke you know Australia.” was one of Henry Lawson sayings and the centre did reflect on the life of the local people.

People like Edward Dickens. Edward was the son of Charles Dickens who with an inheritance from his father bought shares in Yanda station. The station was 300,000 acres and carried 112,000 sheep. He sold the shares six years later in hard times and took up a job as an inspector. The pastoral area he was responsible for would have covered nearly all of England. What a change of life, from England to Australia. Edward died in 1902 at the age of 49 from consumption. His debts were four times the value of his assets. His life reflected on his father’s fictional character of Wilkins Micawber the patiently chronic pauper.

Another person was William Walter Davis. He was the first to demonstrate the success of the Artesian bore. He spent a massive £5,000 to sink the first bore in 1881. Years later he said ‘the years of investing in the arid west brought him to the brink of ruin.’ He blamed The Land Act of 1884, saying instead of assisting the people of the land it penalized them. Thirty-two years later his pioneering achievements were recognized by the State. He received a pension of £2 a week.

Even Henry Lawson in his early years spent time in and around Bourke. He wrote to Banjo Paterson saying, “I have lost a lot of idols which were broken on the track” to Bourke. He arrived in Bourke in 1892 and quickly became the voice of the militant shearers. In his time at Bourke, Henry wrote eight poems under other names (only recently being discovered.)

From all I read the person who caught my eye the most was the story about Nancy Bird. At just age 19 Charles Kingsford Smith taught her how to fly. Nancy became the first woman to operate an aircraft commercially in Australia. Totally amazing. It wouldn’t have been easy to be a pilot way back then let alone a woman pilot.

Of course there was a section dedicated to Fred Hollows as well (but I have already told you about him.)

The centre had a model of the bridge so before we finished for the day we took a walk across the North Bourke Bridge.

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The bridge has been left with all the mechanics of its workings. It even still had the old beacon for lighting.

While we were there the Jandra came down the river. It was fun to see the paddleboat from such a different angle. We waved to everyone and they waved to us. Nice.

Adrian had some luck with catching something in the nets. Okay the fish was not what we were expecting but at least it was something. (It was the first time Adrian had caught any fish in all the time we have been on the road.) We did get some yabbies. This time they were blue claw. They are vicious. Once they catch onto something it is hard to get them to let go. We didn’t catch enough for a feed in any one-day so we had to save them up until we our last night. This time I made garlic yabbies and we pigged out. Good tucker.

We had sat around our neighbour’s campfire each night. When our neighbours left we decided to have our own for our last night. A new couple arrived and had started to talk to Adrian. He invited them to come and join our campfire. They agreed and decided we didn’t have enough wood so they offered to go get more. They come back with the back of their Ute full. There ended up being 6 of us enjoying the flames. The group broke up for dinner at about 7pm. When the wood collector departed he told Adrian he would be back to enjoy the fire after dinner. Back he came after about an hour. Adrian went out but I didn’t bother thinking they would only stay for half and hour or an hour at the most. Another new couple joined them. It wasn’t until well after 10pm and I was in bed reading that Adrian came in. It seems the wood collector didn’t want to leave until all the wood had been used.


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