Rob & Glenda’s visit to Broken Hill

Glenda and I visited Broken Hill in October 2019.

Stained glass window in the Trades Hall building.

In January 2015, the City of Broken Hill was included on the National Heritage Register. Broken Hill has a very strong Union history and has the only union-owned newspaper in the country, the Barrier Daily Truth. As from last year it ceased to be issued daily and is now weekly. It has been going for over 100 years. Many issues published between 1941 and 1954 have been digitised as part of the Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program.

If you belonged to a union, the paper was tossed over your front fence every morning. If there were five unionists in the household, five papers landed in the front yard.

The history of Broken Hill was marked with bitter and protracted strikes, particularly in 1892, 1909 and 1919, and this building was the focal point of these strikes. The 1919 strike lasted 18 months and led to the 35-hour week for miners and improved health and safety conditions.

Broken Hill Trades Hall – built between 1898 and 1904

Trades Hall logo

After 125 years of mining a 300 million tonne mineral system, the 7.5km long, 1.6km deep Line of Lode still supports mining, making Broken Hill one of the longest continual mining towns in the world.

The cemetery provides a valuable record of the diversity of Broken Hill’s early mining community.

Keep the red flag flying here. Workers of the world, Unite.

The story of Percy Brookfield looms large in Broken Hill folklore. From his gravestone:

PERCIVAL BROOKFIELD, 1878-1921
REVOLUTIONARY, UNIONIST, HERO Despite being gaoled for his anti-war activities, and expelled from the ALP, the charismatic Brookfield captured the imagination of the people of Broken Hill. They voted him into the NSW Parliament in 1917 and again in 1920 on the Independent Labor ticket. He held the balance of power and used it to extract benefits for the city and improved conditions for the workers and their families. …

Broken Hill has one of three memorials in Australia to the tragic sinking of the Titanic in 1912. The loss of working class and musicians’ lives was keenly felt in Broken Hill. In the back of the Jewish museum, I came across this document that affected me deeply.

Glenda and I took two days to drive to Broken Hill from Canberra, and overnighted in Lake Cargellico. I would recommend going via Cobar and not Menindee. The road via Menindee is only for the very well prepared. We stayed for a week in an old miner’s cottage that had been converted to an AirB&B.

You will easily fill one week in Broken Hill. A day trip to Silverton is a must. The Sculpture Garden outside town is well worth a visit. The Jewish Museum and the gal. iron mosque are not to be missed. You will come across the story of Albert Morris, who regenerated the surrounding countryside with his plantings and saved the town from dust storms. The picnic train massacre during World War I is a sad and poignant tale.

This photo was taken on the drive home somewhere near Lithgow.

Keep the Red Flag flying.

In solidarity
Rob Parnell
April 2021