A holiday in Broken Hill is for real. This world-renowned mining city overflows with nationally significant heritage and authentic experiences amid the iconic, accessible outback. Much more than a stunning backdrop, the Silver City is a place for complete immersion. A destination where daily discoveries are recounted every night amid an atmosphere of historic grandeur and hospitality.
Broken Hill truly is a living museum and since its birth as a promising little mining village in the 1880s, it has gone on to be recognised as the boldest of the Australian outback towns; its reputation pressure-cooked through decades of hardship in the desert. The Broken Hill Proprietry (that would later become BHP), boomed in the 1880s, and the population reached 20,000 by 1891. And an outback culture took root in the very worst of conditions, with a stubborn refusal to lay down to nature, that became the bedrock of the Broken Hill psyche.
The Great War visited Broken Hill on New Year’s Day, 1915, when two camel drivers loyal to the Ottoman Empire opened fire on a picnic train, killing five men, women and children in what remains the only act of war to be committed on Australian soil. But death in Broken Hill had never needed the encouragement of international conflict, fatalities a routine hazard of work in the mines, the local population alerted to each tragedy by a black flag hoist from on top of the Town Hall.
Broken Hill soon became a global battleground for the timeless war between rich and poor, organised strikes, sometimes lasting for many months, seeing violent clashes that raged in the streets and whole families left destitute.
In the 70s and 80s, the dominant workers’ culture gave way to a local passion for the arts. Artists like Pro Hart and Jack Absalom, and films such as Mad Max 2 and Priscilla: Queen of the Desert were filmed on location in and around Broken Hill, giving the place a world-wide reputation on the silver screen.
So Broken Hill’s new era emerged; as a place much more than a mere engine of blood, sweat and stone. People – both from Broken Hill and 'Away' – began to regard the town as a culture in its own right, a place with a definite outback soul.
Today Broken Hill is a living, breathing time-capsule; an artefact that survives in the desert and waits to be rediscovered. Art deco shopfronts welcome customers straight out of a bygone age, and all over town are monuments to men and women who suffered and died so the town could survive.
But the machine that gave birth to Broken Hill still grinds away underneath, the mountainous slag heap, hauled from the earth for near 130 years, casting a shadow over town at the dawn of each day.
There are perhaps few places in the world where one can stand in a street at the urban boundary, some 20,000 people and all their dwellings immediately at one’s back, and view nothing but red desert in front, as far as the eye can see.
This is the essential experience of Broken Hill – to be here is to discover a lost world.