Wiluna is an old gold rush town in the Murchison region of Western Australia’s Golden Outback with a real bush atmosphere. It’s located at the starting point of the Canning Stock Route and the Gunbarrel Highway - two great outback adventures for four-wheel drive enthusiasts.
At its peak the town was home to the biggest gold mine in Western Australia. Today, Wiluna is chiefly a Martu Indigenous community. It has an active administrative centre and offers day trips and walks to various lookouts and historic attractions.
Any history of Wiluna has two threads, European that started with Surveyor Lawrence Wells in 1892 and the infinitely longer story of the Martu people. In 1896 gold was discovered, but Wiluna did not peak until the advent on new mining technologies in the 1930’s. From a population of 600 it quickly boomed to an excess of 9,000 people.
Unfortunately the boom times only lasted ‘til the mid 1940’s and by 1963 the town was down to 90 persons. Since that time it has increased again, mainly due to the growing number of Martu people coming in from their traditional country.
Wiluna Walk Trails
The very best way to explore the heritage of Wiluna. Pick up at brochure from the Shire office, post office, Caravan Park or shop and take a stroll around one of these new, fascinating, well sign posted and informative walks
Northern Loop, 1650 metres. View interpretative panels at all these sites:
- D’Orsongna Bros humble beginnings in Wiluna
- The Pioneer: from store to hall to mission
- The Weeloona Hotel: longest bar in the world
- Café Strip
- Hodder’s Bakery
- On the beat, policing earlt Wiluna
- Once were heroes The towns banks
- Last man standing; the Club Hotel
- The Ambassador : lets go to the movies!
- The moonlight hall: a night on the town
- The “old” school; between a rock and a hard place
- Curley O’Connor’s Boarding House
- Arsenic mining and the “bomb shelter”
- A church of many lives
- The Commercial: bringing the best beer to town
- Capital Hall: dance central in the early years
- The Magnificent Lake Way Hotel
Southern Loop, 1490 metres. View interpretative panels at all these sites:
- Power for the people: generating electricity
- The gentle sports; bowls and golf early Wiluna
- The former State Battery: prospectors friend
- The old morgue and the Matrons House
- The former hospital: still serving the town
- Lifesavers: the original swimming pools
- The new school – and its famous originator
- The Convent School ,and its celebrated student
- Red Hill and Lakeside: the outer suburbs
- The Railway Station, and the line to Meekatharra
- Sport the glue that holds a community together
- You champion! Great games on the town oval
- THe first primary school, and the School of Mines
Things to see and do in Wiluna town
- Tjurkurba Art Gallery. Housed in the Council Chambers see the display of historic photos and unique paintings by Wiluna’s aboriginal Martu artists who frequent the Gallery workshop, producing high quality paintings for sale.
- Check out the Last of the Nomads statue, the town’s tribute to Warri (1909-1979) and Yatungka (1917-1979), believed to be the last desert nomads leading a traditional lifestyle. See Indigenous history for details.
- Take a walk around the graceful Old Hospital ( Shire offices) birthplace of many local Martu people - and former Governor-General, Major General Micheal Jeffery.
- Red Hill lokout. Just 1200 metres south of the town this rocky rise gives wonderful views over Wiluna across to the gold mine.
- Head out to the Clay Pans. After rains, these fill with water and are great for windsurfing, canoeing, bird watching and picnics.
- View the grave sites in the Pioneer Cemetery, dated from 1893 to 1903.
Wiluna honours the Last of the Nomads
Warri (1909-1979) and Yatungka (1917-1979) were believed to be the last of the Mandildjara tribe and were perhaps Australia’s last desert nomads leading the traditional Indigenous lifestyle. Long after the Mandildjara people (known also as Martu) had gravitated to urban settlements this couple survived for decades on their own, hunting and eating native fruits.
Warri and Yatungka met in the 1930’s and fell in love, but Indigenous tribal law forbade them from marrying. So to avoid severe physical punishment or even death, the star-crossed lovers ran away together in the middle of the night. Living in isolation, the couple had three children – only two of which survived in the harsh outback conditions.
Despite Warri and Yatungka’s defiance and departure, the Mandildjara elders constantly worried about their welfare. When a severe drought hit the region in 1977, local Indigenous elder, Mudjon, and white explorer, Stan Gratte, set out to find “the last of the nomads”. After several weeks they were found, close to starvation in the Gibson Desert, and brought back to Wiluna. The Indigenous elders forgave Warri and Yatungka, and they remained in Wiluna until 1979, when they passed away within weeks of each other. Their deaths marked the end of an Indigenous lifestyle that stretched back more than 40,000 years. A statue commemorating the Last of the Nomads is located at the town’s entrance.
The Wiluna Hotel and Caravan Park both offer accommodation.
Just outside the town and 11 kms down the Gunbarrel Highway, is Gunbarrel Laager offering donga-type accommodation with shared kitchen and ablutions around in a pleasant greased area.
90 kilometres to the east, a historic cattle station provides basic camping facilities at Lorna Glen Reserve.
Carnegie Station 353 kms east on the Gunbarrel Highway provides self catering donga-type accommodation and fuel.
For more information, contact the Wiluna Visitor Centre by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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