City Girl goes Outback or Sister Cities (which one really is the big sister?)

Warringah Council and Brewarrina Council are sister cities. Brewarrina is affectionately known as “Bre”.

The idea of the relationship is to promote friendship between beach and bush communities and allow a greater understanding of the issues facing each area.

Brewarrina just celebrated the 150th anniversary of their town and some of us from Council were lucky enough to go officially and celebrate their big event!

So where is Brewarrina?

In the outback. Many of us know the saying when describing a place far away we use the term ”the Back of Bourke”, well Brewarrina is near Bourke! It is 787 km away from Sydney. It is between Bourke and Walgett.

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For us travellers from Warringah it meant flying to Dubbo and then picking up cars to drive another 4 1/2 hours to to Brewarrina as Dubbo is the closest airport that has hire cars.

As for who is the big sister? That’s debatable as Bre like to remind us!

If you go by population – Warringah has approx. 142,000 residents. Brewarrina has approx. 1100.

Warringah is 152 square kilometres in size, Bre is 18,500 square kilometres so what they lack in population, they make up for in sheer size!

The one thing that both areas share though is the love of the water. Even though Bre gets an average of 3 rain days a month, they have a great river and fishing is the most popular sport in the area.

fish
Fish sculptures outside the visitors centre

A week before we arrived our Youth Ambassadors had been living and experiencing Brewarrina and our schedule was to meet up with them on the afternoon before they leave to go back to Sydney.

What we see are some very tired, but happy young people waiting for us with their equally tired Council staff support team. All looking brown as a berry from the sun! (note to self, next time take more summer clothes, it’s hot during the day even in Autumn!)

The young people are keen to show us their new cooking skills over open fires and quickly make us Johnny Cakes with butter and maple syrup- YUM!

They look tired but content and quickly share with us some stories of what they have seen and done. They have fallen in love with the river and have been there every day swimming and learning to fish with the local aboriginal kids. I know they will be talking to us in a couple of weeks back at Council about their experiences but it wasn’t hard to see that these kids who had not known each other before they came out here now had a special bond between them.
All the locals that we met mentioned how lovely the kids were, they were a hit and great ambassadors!

Our accommodation was at a cattle station just out from Brewarrina called Bokhara Hutz. To give you an idea of the size of this property, the driveway is 7 kms long!

There is a main meeting area with an undercover pit fireplace and seats, tables, and all sorts of rustic bar, outdoor kitchen area as well as a pool table. A great place to relax, swap stories and talk to others who are staying on the station. This place is huge, there are people camping by the river and others staying in their caravans on the property. We only see them when they come for showers or share dinner with us.

campfires every night - bliss!

Our cabins from the outside look a little like storage containers on stilts, tastefully done however inside is a wonderful surprise! It had all the comforts of home and lovingly decorated. It showed the attention to detail and a woman’s touch.

Meeting area at Bokhara Hutz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The owners of the cattle station are a lovely couple called Graham and Cathy and proud owners and work hard to make sure their station is income producing whether it is from the land, the beloved cattle or from accommodation.

Could Graham be the next Mayor of Warringah? Well we just called him the Mayor of Bokhara s it's probably the same sized area anyway!
Could Graham be the next Mayor of Warringah?
Well we just called him the Mayor of Bokhara s it’s probably the same size area anyway!

We heard sad stories of the toll the drought is taking. Graham had sold off 750 head of cattle last month as he can’t afford to keep feeding them all. He is talking now of getting rid of his core stock, he smiles resolutely, it’s not an easy decision.

For an area that is so flat – not a hill or bump on the landscape in sight – it is hard to believe this area floods when the rivers flood in Queensland, another State away! You look around and think you can see forever.

It is spectacular, especially at night when the moon rises!

Graham had teased us about the “hills of Brewarrina” compared to Warringah. From talking to a local elderly lady on the way over from Nyngan, she said that when they come to Sydney for medical appointments, they find out steps and hills hard to deal with in Sydney as they have no steps at home. She asked if was it because we are used to them?

It’s something I’d never thought of.

The hills of Brewarrina?
The hills of Brewarrina?

Which highlights  stood out for this city girl?

  • The first night we are there, we are frocked up for black tie cocktail party event in town. We are being picked up by a small bus, as were many of the other farmers & their wives. Everyone was looking swish in their formal outfits and so out of place in the dust. 
  • The cocktail party itself – where else can you go and get a wrist band AND a stubby cooler with the branding on it? I’m guessing stubby coolers are a very useful item out there as it can get hot and keeping the drinks cold would be an issue. But a blacktie stubby cooler?
    All dressed up, note the special edition stubby holder held by the guy on the right hand side!
    All dressed up, note the special edition stubby holder held by the guy on the right hand side!

     

     

  • Having to collect the “cocktail mix” from the airport in Dubbo. We had urgent calls asking us to make sure we collected the cocktail mix for the party from the airport. A suspicious looking brown box full of powder was what the organisers were waiting so desperately for…..well that’s what we were told it was and we’re sticking to that story! 
  • The bus trip to the cocktail party – I haven’t mentioned the emus that are common along the roads. They run, they stand and they cross the road. Graham from the station explains they are called traffic lights as you always slow down when you see them as you have no idea which way they are going to run. A trick is to always drive behind them as they can’t run backways! Yes, we saw kangeroos but up till now I’ve only seen emus at animal parks wanting food. These were the real deal and yes I’ll admit, us ladies screamed with delight when we saw them! 
  • Which lead to the bus trip back from the party. It is now midnight. No traffic and no street lights and god knows how fast that bus was travelling back to the cattle station. However the braking power of the bus was put to the test, as well as our neck muscles from whiplash when the emus and kangaroos were out to play! 

    Run emus run!
    Run emus run!
  • The horizons all shimmered- after driving out there I can well imagine how people thought they saw inland seas. The shimmering horizons not just on the road but in the landscape itself looked like the trees were floating above water. And no traffic, no cars hardly seen – bliss! 
  • The fish traps, these are the oldest man made structures on earth. A place to soak up the atmosphere, a place of aboriginal dreamtime stories
    The Barwon River & Weir with the Fish Traps
    The Barwon River & Weir with the Fish Traps

     and is a sacred place for birthing for women. The river is a constant source of delight, especially to the aboriginal kids who love swimming and fishing here. Watching them fish using “whatever materials” they could find was eye opening as they really were catching fish. (though I wonder how many tree guards the council have to replace every year).

     

 

 

  • The Street Parade. Where do I start? From watching their 85 year old mayor leading the parade on a bicycle (poor thing did fall off and got chauffeured in a truck to finish the parade off, skinned knuckles & a tough old soul) to the floats were all very funny! The hospital float had people on it supposedly sick and in hospital beds but they were drinking and smoking and having a ball! They won the prize for the funniest float)

 

Sick beds? The hospital float was very funny and deserved to win a prize!
Sick beds?
The hospital float was very funny and deserved to win a prize!
  • The Council float was a hoot!- No one was working, all sitting on their bums drinking coffee with shovels to one side, a typical poke of fun at council workers,(strangely enough our general manager didn’t seem to see the funny side of it- “promoting misconceptions about councils” I think I heard him mutter!)
    Brewarrina Council float
    Brewarrina Council float

     

     

 

 

  • The sheep during the parade coming down the wide roads with dogs supposedly rounding them up- one sheep didn’t want to follow so he was being carried by the farmer. That is, until 1/2 the sheep decided they didn’t want to go down the road any more & took off into the crowd with dogs chasing them behind some of the buildings. What fun! I think Warringah could do with a street parade to liven up the area. What do you think? No amount of encouragement could get the sheep back and they split off separately into all different directions! I was worried about the one that tried to get into the local pub- I suspect the meat tray would be very fresh that night. Brewarrina Council staff were saying if the sheep wandered into the wrong side of town that would be the last we would see of them!

    When sheep don't want to be in a parade....they get carried!
    When sheep don’t want to be in a parade….they get carried!
  • The formal speeches time funny too- all the VIP’s on the tray of a large truck with a lectern. The anniversary celebration cake was to say “Happy Birthday Brewarrina” but now only said Happy Birthday as someone had fallen “hands first” into the cake so the icing had been fixed up with only “Happy Birthday “on it.
  • There was also a goat that seemed to be in love with a dog, but that’s another story….I’m keeping this G rated.
    Well it is Brewarrina as the locals kept reminding us!

The best thing of all though was when our Mayor handed over a $5,000 cheque for their Youth Centre. The gratitude was immense, the smiles were genuine and the feel good factor was at a high for both Councils.

I’m sure they can do a lot with that money and look forward to hearing about what changes they create with it.

Happy Birthday Brewarrina! The cake!
Happy Birthday Brewarrina! The cake!
 
Front left to right,Warringah Mayor Michael Regan, Bre Community Development Officer Trish Frail, Warringah Councillors Gobert and Heins, the Mayor of Brewarrina Wulf Reichler OAM and Warringah’s General Manager Rik Hart with the Happy Birthday cake.
(photo source Warringah Council Facebook page)
 
$5000 cheque to be presented. General Manager Rik Hart, Jacki Gobert & Cllr Wayne Gobert.
$5000 cheque to be presented. General Manager Rik Hart, Jacki Gobert & Cllr Wayne Gobert.

 

So what did this city girl learn?

That we all have plenty to offer, no matter where you come from!

I love the fact they don’t take themselves so seriously, they laugh at themselves and at each other to cope with the hard times as well as the good. They always have time to help out a friend (even our bus trip into the cocktail party meant we picked up someone’s child and dropped them off along the road to go home as a favour to a local farmer). Everyone has a story as to why they are there, you just have to get to know them first and be proud of where you come from, people from Bre certainly are!  I loved it and am thrilled I got to be part of it!

The Brewarrina Song
The Brewarrina Song

 

 

2 Responses to City Girl goes Outback or Sister Cities (which one really is the big sister?)

  1. Loved reading this. Took me back to the seven months we spent in Moree – huge space, the stars at night, river gums, friendly people, community events where everybody knows everybody. Sydney now seems so frantic.

    Didn’t make it to Brewarina but did spend a few days at Lightning Ridge – now there’s a place with character and characters.

  2. Victorian grain growers are expected to sow about the same area to winter crop this season as they did last year despite heavy rain making some paddocks all but impossible to crop.