Courthouse Cafe & Gallery

Wilcannia NSW

Courthouse cafe and gallery, Wilcannia is closed for renovations and will reopen in Mid September 2014.  We apologise to our customers and staff for the inconvenience this may cause. 

A Heritage Gem in Western NSW

Wilcannia is a town of around 600 people located on the Darling River 260 kms East of Cobar and 200 kms West of Broken Hill.    Some 15000  caravans pass through each year.   People enquiring at towns around about are told not to stop there.  "Too dangerous"  they're told.  

The truth is that the town is one of, if not the most interesting places in the State.   For anyone remotely interested in early white settlement, the wool industry, riverboats, superb 19th century public buildings, aboriginal history before and since, this place is a must.  

Needless to say the early white settlers were tough little buggers, who swarmed over the place from about 1850 and introduced sheep that thrived despite extreme heat.   Today is a different story.  Upstream cotton farms have been allocated vast amounts of water from the complex series of rivers that end up in "the Big Ditch" that Europeans named the Darling River.     

 

 

 

 

 

Always subject to extreme fluctuation, periods of        no-flow extend to 9 months or longer on a regular basis.  The warehouse being restored in Reid St houses an old rowing four still in reasonable condition that was used by a population of 3000 or more town and country people 100 years ago.   Floods in those days would isolate the town and maroon steamers for 3 months or more, feeding all the enormous flood plains and lakes around the river during it's 1500 kilometre journey to Wentworth.   Today the most extreme floods like those that took lives in the Lockyer Valley in 2011 do not water any of them.  

 The Bonney  brothers were early white settlers who recorded the life and times of aboriginal communities around the district.  Charles Dickens son managed a huge sheep station and was elected to the NSW State Parliament.  Edmund Resch started his first brewery here.  

Today the town is home to around 600 people, 450 aboriginal and 150 white.  Many tourists have never seen or met an aboriginal person.  Wilcannia is an excellent place to meet people from the Barkandji mob or tribe,  who traditionally lived in an area from Bourke in the North to Wentworth in the South 

 

 

 

 

Wilcannia Hospitality

Since opening in July 2014 the café has been staffed by local people who have proved to be capable baristas and welcoming hosts.  Hospitality comes naturally to Barkandji people who are friendly and happy people with a ready sense of humour.    Down the road (about 160 kms away !) is the historic and spectacular Mutawintji National Park. where tribes would meet for trade, entertainment and spiritual ceremonies.   Closer to home the Darling River has always been a source of food and leisure. 

 

 

 

Wilcannia is developing a reputation for welcoming travellers on the long haul between Cobar and Broken Hill - about 200 kms East and West. Many stay overnight or longer.  The town now boasts two Caravan Parks with excellent facilities at Warrawong - 2 kms East - and more basic, but cheaper facilities at the traditional Council Park on the banks of the Darling River.  Many travellers stop to admire the beautiful old Sandstone buildings and to imagine the busy traffic that once used the river to transport wool to markets far away.    It's more than about a 1000 kilometres to the Murray River by boat.  Around 200 Paddle Steamers once used the river.   

Uniforms for the Staff

Staff are changing and so is their appearance.  In April 2015 we introduced our new uniforms designed to complement our overall style and image.  In 2016 we are employing up to 10 local people in the café who are training in hospitality services with our local TAFE centre. 

 

Alana, Sarah and Leah

Alana, Sarah and Leah

Kay, Leah, Adrian and Alana

Kay, Leah, Adrian and Alana

 

We are seeking partnerships with cafes and places that offer accommodation in other towns and cities with similar aims and philosophy.  We want to establish a local service for travellers and in particular grey nomads who seek places with an interesting history.  Wilcannia certainly does that, having been a flourishing inland port in the 19th and early 20th century.  During it's heyday it was home to 13 pubs, and accommodated thousands of shearers.  Wool was the product when Australia rode on the sheep's back.  Over 200 paddle steamers plied the Murray Darling river system.   The town also has many old buildings of local sandstone of excellent design, many restored and used.  The local cemetery is also a rich source of history and a visiting place for the many descendants of early white settlers and families of aboriginal residents.   

Through the café, a restored sandstone Inn and separate Pub, we are providing a service to some 50,000 tourists who use the Barrier Highway.  We believe successful enterprises rely on a partnership between owners and workers based on honesty and reliability from workers, and humility, empathy and compassion from owners.  So far this formula has been shown to work successfully in Wilcannia, NSW.  Come and have a look for yourself.   Open from 10 am till 8 pm, March to December.

Michael, Sarah and Ben before the uniforms were introduced.

Michael, Sarah and Ben before the uniforms were introduced.