Brewarrina's History

In 1859 Captain William Randall took the river steamer "Gemini" up the Darling river to a place known then as the Blacks Fishing ground which was a configuration of circular walls of stones in the river bed assembled to trap fish.

This was the start of the river boat trade on the Barwon/Darling at Brewarrina. There is a natural drop in the river at this point and for goods to continue on to Walgett and beyond they had to be carried up the bank from the downstream steamer and be reloaded on the waiting steamer upstream.  This was the only portage wharf on the river.

Shops in Brewarrina circa 1930 (16KB)
Shops in Brewarrina circa 1930
Army transports in Main Street Brewarrina 1950 (11KB)
Army transports in Main Street Brewarrina 1950

Two horse teams (11KB)
Two horse teams loaded with wool

Brewarrina Hotel (10KB)
The reception for Lord and Lady Chelmsford, Governor of NSW outside the hotel in Brewarrina

About 30 years before the riverboats arrived, settlers had taken up land along the river system.  Teamsters, both horse and bullock teams, pulled their wagons many miles with wool and produce to get it to market.  When the river boats came the teams pulled their loads to a river port for transfer to a steamer to continue its journey to market.  This form of carrying continued until 1901 then the train came to Brewarrina.  the teamsters continued to carry wool and produce but now it was taken to the railhead. 

In 1861 Brewarrina town was laid out and declared a town in 1863, the year Brewarrina had its first newspaper.

Hotels were springing up in the town and at an average of 25 miles apart on different routes the teamsters travelled.  These routes became roads as they are today.  Motor transport got underway in the late 1920's and these roads are still used today.

In 1866 the Brewarrina Police station opened with one senior constable and one constable until 1904 when there was one sergeant and four constables.  One was a mounted constable who rode his horse to outposts to check if all was well and to hear any charges.   this same year the Gongolgon Police station opened.  This is a small town 28 miles south of Brewarrina and was the depot for Cobb & Co.

Twice a week two horse coaches met with the Cobb & Co coach at Gongolgon to pick up passengers going to Brewarrina and places north.  Cobb & Co ran coaches from Dubbo railway station to Timbrebongie, Warren, Cannonbar, Willeroon, Gongolgon then up the Bogan river to Bourke.  the last coach ran in 1923 as they could not compete with the railway.  (In 1974 the last train ran to Brewarrina)

The population fluctuated with (itinerate workers) people seeking work, walking and riding pushbikes mostly.  In 1920 the population in the town was in excess of 2000 in 1997 it was 1400.

A tanksinking bush camp (13KB)
A tanksinking bush camp



Team with a load of felloes (11KB)
Team with a load of felloes (wood blocks used for making wagon wheels)

Flood on the Barwon River (13KB)
Flood on the Barwon River at the Brewarrina lift up span bridge

Levee Bank (9KB)
Levee bank in Brewarrina 1950

The flood in 1890 was the biggest recorded in Brewarrina.  There have been several floods since but with modern machinery to build levee banks the town is secure.

The town developed towards the river to accommodate the river trade and is still close to the river.  Several rivers feed into the Barwon-Darling river system from Queensland where the tropical cyclones and monsoonal rains fall. Services in Brewarrina have been reduced over the years but the people who live here would not want to live elsewhere.