The Wiljakali people who occupied the area when Charles Sturt arrived in 1845 (and first referred to it as 'broken hill') faced less immediate settler agression than tribal groups who lived on the rivers, including the Darling (Spearitt, 2018, 73).
In 1883, when boundary rider Charles Rasp formed a small syndicate to mine a great ironstone outcrop in the far west of NSW, they thought they would find tin. Instead, they ended up having leases over some of the world's richest silver, lead and zinc deposits. Unlike gold, these metals were not simply there for the taking. BHP (Broken Hill Proprietory Ltd.), formed in 1885, faced technical and logistical challenges in mining and processing ore bodies (ibid, 2018, 73).
Broken Hill grew quickly. A population of 17,000 in 1889 had more than doubled to 35,000 in 1914, putting it on the map as the then third-largest city in NSW. In today's terms, it could be described as Australia's most multicultural city of the time (ibid, 2018, 73).
Trade Unions quickly formed around the mine and extraction processing industries. The Trades Hall, built between 1891 and 1905, became the first building in Australia owned by unions, who also purchased the local newspaper 'The Barrier Times' in 1908. This strong union tradition permeated all aspects of life in Broken Hill. The city's unionists won a 35-hour week in 1920, the first to do so in Australia (ibid, 2018, 74).
The city is full of surprises, including a mosque, founded by Afghan cameleers in the early 1890s, and a synagogue built in 1910. The cameleers flourished in the later decades of the 19th century, transporting wool as well as construction materials for the Overland telegraph line from Darwin to Port Augusta. The Jewish population mainly came from Eastern Europe. While the synagogue closed in 1962, the mosque is still used for worship. BHP ceased operations in Broken Hill in the late 1930s, by which time other mining companies had formed, leaving behind an open-cut mine that writer George Farwell described in 1948 as, 'forlorn as a dead planet. It has the air of a crater on the moon... Massive boulders and abandoned machinery sprawl down its flanks as though flung down the sheer sides of a mountain gorge. Upon the crest old iron lies everywhere' (ibid, 2018, 74).