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The Wiradjuri people are the traditional landowners of Peak Hill, which is located in Central West New South Wales. The Australian Museum has 11 objects from Peak Hill, including miniature weapons, boomerangs and a carved tree. The miniature weapons and boomerangs were donated to the Museum by Mr George Smith in 1939. We don't know exactly when they were made, but it was presumably in the early twentieth century.
Peak Hill is located in Central West New South Wales. It is an historic mining town, established following the discovery of gold in 1889. It is also known for its rich agricultural land, and especially for its sheep and wheat farming. Between 1996 and 2002, goldmining recommenced in the towns open cut mine, now open to visitors.
The Wiradjuri are the largest Aboriginal group in central New South Wales, by area and population, and second largest in Australia, with lands stretching east from the Great Dividing Range, to Hay and Nyngan in the west, Gunnedah to the north and Albury to the south. The people of Wiradjuri country are known as “people of the three rivers” for the Macquarie River (Wambool), Lachlan River (Kalari), and Murrumbidgee River (Murrumbidjeri), which border their lands. The Wiradjuri people have lived in Australia for more than 40,000 years. Approximately 3000 Wiradjuri people were living in New South Wales during European settlement.
The excellent quality of Wiradjuri lands meant that they were closely affected by European settlement in the area. Whilst European interruption was restricted on the orders of Governor Macquarie, these were lifted from the early 1820’s. The Wiradjuri people resisted, which led to open conflict from 1822-1824. The Wiradjuri leader, Windradyne, led attacks on white settlers, during which time approximately 20 settlers and 100 Aboriginal people were killed, and which culminated in the ‘Battle’ of Bathurst on 18 September 1824, where several hundred Wiradjuri people were killed. The gold rush in the 1850’s meant that the area became one of the most densely populated areas in the state, and subjected the Indigenous population to new diseases. Many Aboriginal people were placed in missions and had their children taken away from them.
Today, Peak Hill is home to one of the major Wiradjuri populations in New South Wales, alongside Condobolin, Griffith and Narrandera. Despite the impact of European settlement, the Wiradjuri people of Central West New South Wales still retain a strong sense of cultural identity.
To see photographs of the objects from Peak Hill NSW, click here
- visitnsw, 2011, Peak Hill
- State Library of New South Wales, 2011, Carved Trees: Aboriginal Cultures of Western NSW
- Horton, David (General Editor), 1994, The Encyclopaedia of Aboriginal Australia, Published by the Aboriginal Studies Press for the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies
- Office of Environment and Heritage, 2011, South Western Slopes: Regional History