Nandewar - regional history
The Aboriginal language groups whose traditional lands lie in the Nandewar bioregion include the Anaiwan (south of Inverell, west to Tingha, to Armidale and south of Uralla), Kamilaroi (from Liverpool Plains to Gwydir; Walgett, Bingara, Quirindi), the Weraerai (Wirrayaraay) and the Kwaimbul in the north.
Aboriginal people used the landscape as both a natural and cultural resource. Evidence of 'transient campsites', (noted by Mitchell as being distributed among the casuarinas and acacias) suggested a seasonal approach to hunting and gathering activities. A range of stone tools were developed with local and traded stone, including "greywackes" and quartz. Mammals such as kangaroo and possum were used for food, clothing, decoration, and stone and wooden hunting tools such as jagged spears, boomerangs and waddies were developed to catch them. Fish were trapped and taken from Gwydir using stone weirs and nets made from plant fibre.
The landscape has influenced the names of many of the local towns and stations which are named after Aboriginal words for aspects of the landscape, usually in association with water which is an important resource in dry country. Bingara - 'creek' or 'shallow crossing', Barraba - 'camp by the riverbank', Manilla - muneela - 'winding river', Quirindi - guyerwarindi - 'waters fall together'. The region is known for ornately carved trees, ceremonial bora grounds and art sites, indicating an intimate spiritual, as well as a physical, attachment to the sacred landscape the Aboriginal people inhabited.
The region is also the place of a marked history of conflict between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. The Europeans pushed the indigenous community away from creeks and waterholes and seized the women and girls. The Aboriginal men retaliated by spearing stock and attacking the stations. In response, several organised massacres took place in the region, including the infamous Myall Creek massacre. At this place, nearly 28 Wirrayaraay, reputedly a peaceable community, were gruesomely murdered at their camp by 11 local stockmen and station hands who were later hanged for their crime. A memorial to those who once lived there now stands as a reminder to passers by.
John Oxley explored the northern tablelands including the Nandewar Bioregion in 1818. Squatters began to occupy the area in the 1830s, looking for suitable grazing land (NSW NPWS 1991). Inverell, on the eastern border of the bioregion, originated in 1837 as a 50,000-acre station run by Alexander Campbell (HO and DUAP 1996).
Cattle grazing was the dominant land use of the bioregion in the early days of European settlement but by the end of the 1800s sheep grazing was expanded due to improved pastures and better fencing (NSW NPWS 1991).
The gold rush of the 1850s led to the rapid entrenchment of several towns in the Nandewar Bioregion. Goldfields in the centre of the bioregion saw the origin of the town of Barraba in 1852, which later became a centre of wheat and pastoralism and was also supported by the Woods Reef Asbestos mine until it closed in 1982 (HO and DUAP 1996).
Similarly, Bingara began as a small village until gold was discovered nearby and the All Nations Gold Mine, active from 1880 to 1948, ensured its permanence. Diamonds representing most of Australia's yield were also mined near Bingara (HO and DUAP 1996). Inverell benefited from the surrounding mines and sapphire mining also became a basis for the town's economy for several years. The fertility of its soils allowed increased farm yields in order to feed the miners.
The Liverpool Plains supported the estates of the Australian Agricultural Company from 1832 (HO and DUAP 1996), when the squatters were driven further north. The company's headquarters became the basis of the town of Tamworth when urban development began to occur in earnest in the 1850s. By 1861 Tamworth had a population of 654 people and became a link in the traffic route from the north, especially when the railway reached the town in 1873 (HO and DUAP 1996).
Tamworth became a municipality in 1876 and by this time it was a successful town with much industry and facilities such as a hospital, banks and schools. In 1888, after building its electricity generating plant (NSW NPWS 1991), Tamworth became the first town in Australia to use electric lighting (HO and DUAP 1996) and eventually it serviced much of the north of the state.
Inverell was not planned as a town until 1858, and later thrived as a result of agricultural production, particularly wheat, with the advent of more sophisticated equipment introduced in the 1860s and 1870s. The railway reached Quirindi in 1877 and by the 1890s this area too was a major wheat centre (HO and DUAP 1996).
Soft wood timber was abundant in the bioregion although it was difficult to retrieve. Many forests were dedicated as state forests around 1900 and most are still managed by State Forests of NSW (NSW NPWS 1991).
Page last updated: 27 February 2011