Monday, April 15, 2024
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Michael Quinlan: Glory be to God for arid landscapes

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The rugged land of Broken Hill, NSW. Photo:
The rugged land of Broken Hill, NSW. Photo:

I don’t think that I am alone in feeling a strong urge to travel after working from home for many months. Perhaps we always want what we can’t have.

Whilst some State borders are now opening up, my wife and I really recently succumbed to the urge to travel by driving out to Broken Hill which is about as far as it is possible to travel without leaving New South Wales.

What I found over the ten days of that journey was not just an extraordinary variety and diversity of climatic conditions and landscapes but a demonstration of the resilience and fortitude of Australians and the magnificence of God’s creation.

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It brought to mind these words from Psalm 65:7-8,11-13(NJB):

The nations are in uproar, in panic those who live at the ends of the earth;
Your miracles bring shouts of joy to the gateways of morning and evening.
You crown the year with your generosity, richness seeps from your tracks,
The pastures of the desert grow moist, the hillsides are wrapped in joy.
The meadows are covered with flocks, the valleys clothed with wheat,
They shout and sing for joy.

There would be few states on earth with the range of weather and atmosphere of New South Wales.

Crossing the mountains for our first stay in Millthorpe near Orange we were confronted by a snow fall interspersed with a rain which seemed to fall horizontally.

Our time in those beautiful vineyards began with mornings just above freezing. From there we travelled hundreds of kilometres to the old copper mining town of Cobar.

The landscape on that journey moved from the fertile to the red earth of the Outback.

Cobar is a town built by a mining site.

Although currently inaccessible, the remains of the original mines and what would once have been molten slag now spread across the earth like a Martian landscape is quite extraordinary.

Travelling from Cobar to Broken Hill is a mere 500 kilometres or so.

The Outback was surprisingly colourful with vast fields of purple, white and yellow desert flowers.

There is also something quintessentially modern Australian about an isolated truck stop in the Outback serving an excellent long black.

Any Australian who has travelled by road will be familiar with the sad sight of wallabies and kangaroos hit by vehicles ,but as you move into the Outback these are interspersed with dingoes.


Broken Hill is well worth the travel time – and not just for the experience of the journey itself.

The fact that Broken Hill – the Silver City – is a mining town is evident as you arrive.

The town is built next to a massive mound of a mining site.

Although quite small there is much to do and much to surprise.

The extraordinary quality, size and variety of the minerals which have been extracted here is well presented in the Albert Kersten Mining and Minerals Museum.

The human cost of extracting these resources is powerfully evidenced by the Line of Lode Lookout and Miners Memorial which can be seen from most parts of the city.

This memorial contains the names of more than a century of lives lost and a stark and simple recording of the facts of each of those tragedies.

Perhaps it is the unique richness of the landscape where red earth contrast with richly coloured desert flowers and wild emus and goats can be seen along the roadside but the area around Broken Hill has also long been a centre of artistic endeavour.

The most famous exponents were the Brushmen of the Bush: Pro Hart, Eric Minchin, Jack Absalom, John Pickup and Hugh Schulz.

There are some good examples of their work in the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery and larger collections of works by Hart and Absalom in their galleries.

Fortunately, the Pro Hart Gallery has sufficient works to challenge any view of his work as one dimensional.

The Miners Heritage Park which commemorates the lives of 120 men who lost their lives in the Cobar Mines 1870 – 2000. Photo: Amanda Slater/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0
The Miners Heritage Park which commemorates the lives of 120 men who lost their lives in the Cobar Mines 1870 – 2000. Photo: Amanda Slater/Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

His displayed works cover existentialism, duplicity, politics, religion and anonymity.

If only the gallery had more space.

A sculpture park of his works is opposite the gallery.

In this brief journey I experienced the wonder and power of God through His creation experiencing the age of the earth, change and rejuvenation.

There is no need to panic but a trip to Broken Hill will reward you.

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