Desert town’s warm welcome

Town amidst ancient lands is a place of discovery during STEPHEN SCOURFIELD’s outback road trip

Carnegie Station is 340km east of Wiluna, down the Gunbarrel Highway.

But before heading out towards the sunrise, I spend three days in Wiluna.

For this is at the junction of big outback tracks.

This is where the Canning Stock Route and the Gunbarrel Highway meet.

The stock route comes down, north to south, from Halls Creek.

The Gunbarrel comes in from the east.

This is where travellers end up, and locals live, of course.

Wiluna, 535km north of Kalgoorlie, 135km east of Meekatharra, has had rough eras, but today there are good times.

There’s a caravan park (in town, next to the discovery centre), hotel-motel, supermarket and fuel.

And there’s a smiling welcome at the information centre at the Shire of Wiluna.

CANNING-GUNBARREL DISCOVERY CENTRE

“They have great coffee. Free coffee,” says the smiling welcomer at Shire of Wiluna’s visitor information desk.

It’s not the first time that this has been pointed out. The Canning-Gunbarrel Discovery Centre’s free coffee has quickly become legendary. And we’re talking latte and cappuccino, long black and mocca.

The shire’s excellent discovery centre is in the former Wiluna District Hospital. Cultural history, the story of the Last of the Nomads, station and mining history, the story of the Canning Stock Route, and the story of the endemic plants and animals are all cleverly told, with “just enough” information.

In the hot season, kurlijarra, Indigenous fare is wattle seed, bush tomatoes and kangaroo.

In the cooling down season (for which an Indigenous name is not given), bush bananas, beans and onions, and bush turkey and emu.

Recent anthropological findings record that the Martu people have been in the western deserts for 50,000 years.

Traditionally, they lived nomadic lives in the Little Sandy and Gibson deserts. Spears were made by heating and straightening timber with hands and feet. Boomerangs were made from hardwood, and flew straight, breaking bones at 150m.

Surveyor Lawrence Wells came through in 1892 and gold was discovered in 1896, though Wiluna’s mining peak came in the 1930s, with new technologies. There were more than 9000 people in town then. But the boom ended in the mid-1940s and by the early 1960s, there were less than 100 people here.

The centre is open through winter, but by appointment only in the hot months, from October to April. Phone 9981 8000.

Read the full story here.

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