Tuesday, April 15, 2008

New England's east-west highways - the Kamilaroi

Map: Kamilaroi Highway

Named after the Kamilaroi peoples, the Kamilaroi Highway leaves the New England Highway just north of Willow Tree. From there it runs north-west through Quirindi to Narrabari and then veers west through Wee Waa, Burren Junction, Walgett and Brewarrina ending at Bourke.

Part of the highway goes through contested, marchland territory from a New England perspective. If you look at the road map, the first part is clearly in New England. However, the far western portion has moved in and out of New England's boundaries.

A key influence here lay in Bourke's role as a river port. Dissatisfied with the loss of traffic and especially wool down the Darling River to South Australia, the colonial Government in Sydney pushed what was called the Main Western Line northwest to Bourke, arriving there in 1885. This drew Bourke and surrounding areas more firmly into Sydney's orbit.

During the Northern (the name New England was not adopted for the new state area until 1931)separation agitation in the 1920s, some suggested boundaries did include Bourke. However, the boundaries recommended by the Nicholas Royal Commission (1935) excluded Bourke and the far west portion. Then the 1967 plebescite boundaries followed Nicholas, to the great distress of many nearby areas who wanted to get out from Sydney and saw themselves as part of New England.

At 607k (around eight hours driving time), the Kamilaroi is not an especially long highway by Australian standards. It is also a very interesting road. In the words of the highway site:

The Kamilaroi Highway route to Bourke from the east coast takes you into the agricultural heartland of NSW, cruising through golden fields of wheat, sunflowers and canola; past the rugged mountain ranges of the Nandewars and Mt Kaputar; and on to the sunburnt plains of the Outback grazing runs.

Along the way, the Kamilaroi’s iconic towns and settlements give you every excuse to extend your journey over several days, with each stop presenting its own unique slice of life in the bush.

I think that this is pretty correct.

For related posts about the towns and regions along the highway see:

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