Manilla Geographical Location:
Lat: 30°44' 51.43" - Long: 150°43'12.71"
Dist: 512km Sydney / 573km Brisbane
When Europeans moved into these parts of the now New England Region in the 1830s, they squatted on land long-familiar to the Gamilaraay/Kamilaroi/Gomeroi people of the Central North-west region of New South Wales. Gamilaraay homelands extend from Tamworth in the east, out westward to Narrabri, Walgett and Lightning Ridge; and from Coonabarabran in the Southwest to Goondawindi in the north at the Queensland border.
A Tale of 2 'Ells'
MANILLA, New South Wales, (with 2 'ells') holds a position on the global map some 11 hours 50 mins air-time from the usual spellchecked search outcome - Manila in the Philippines - spelt with 1 'ell'.
'The JUNCTION', as the new settlement was known until the mid 19th century, marks the route of early teamsters on their way northwards, transporting goods by wagon to cattle stations, settlements and the goldfields of Bingara and Bundarra. In the 1850s, an official name was requested by the Postmaster General. First storekeeper and Acting Postmaster of the time George Veness, named the place Manilla, after the river flowing down north-west of and into the larger Namoi River at 'the Junction'. In 1864, year of major flooding, the town of Manilla was laid out by government surveyor Arthur Dewhurst. Manilla would go on to build great prosperity on farming wheat, wool, sheep and cattle and by the turn of the century would become one of the major rural centres of the New South Wales central north-west.
Much is yet to be uncovered of 19th century incidents of conflict between first people and European immigrants. Locally, unrecorded oral history claims significant crimes were committed against indigenous families here during the previous century. However, nothing of local knowledge has ever been formally recorded. It is imperative that those stories be written down regardless of negative focus on a town or its past residents.
Two research projects of note are attempting to bring unrecorded incidents into focus:
The University of Newcastle is conducting major research into mapping Colonial Frontier Massacres between 1788 & 1930.
A separate project seeks to map through public input and the sharing of oral history, the 'Names of Places' throughout the continent, which are reputed to be sites of conflict or attack. From public contribution of spoken knowledge, research can then be conducted and the history addressed.
In "a land of sweeping plains...of droughts and flooding rains"* Australian eyes and ears are perpetually attuned to the weather forecast. In late 2019, much of Australia's Eastern states was in the grip of a devastating drought of 4 years duration.
*line taken from the poem "My Country" by Dorothea Mackellar
By 2020, many towns had run out of drinking water and become reliant upon that being carted daily from depleted reserves. Farmers hand-feeding livestock for more than 3 years were brought to the point of selling their herds and hay continued to be trucked from short supplies in other states to keep the last vestiges of breeding stock alive. The 2019/2020 Australian summer saw catastrophic fire bring devastation to landscape, community and wildlife, such as never experienced before.
With 2021, came la Nińa bringing much needed rain for parched inland regions and excessive volumes along the eastern coast.
Climate Change is a reality, the planet is warming and summers are getting hotter. However, a complexity of circumstances created Australia's devastating 2019-2020 summer infernos. Much of this country had suffered, as it has always done, through years without rainfall; and fact-finders might also begin to acknowledge the years of mis-management of this particular landscape, such as laws put in place to actively prohibit the necessary clearing of dangerous fuel loads. First Custodians of this continent managed the land successfully for more than 50,000 years. In just over two centuries of ignorance of traditional practices, all has been undone.
Our local situation has, up until late 2020, been the subject of intense research by retired earth scientist Garry Speight, drawing upon his vast knowledge of weather patterns and climate fluctuations in a thorough mapping of our more recent local weather. Although his own temperature records go back to just 1999, he notes changes in the climate since then, in Manilla and in the wider world. Garry's monthly and seasonal weather reports were regularly published in the "Manilla Express" between 2007-2020, and can be found in the 'Archives' panel on his CLIMATE BLOG.
The Namoi River is a major tributary of the Barwon-Darling River System, extending from Walcha in the East, to Walgett in the West of NSW. It flows through Manilla town to Lake Keepit, constructed in the 1950s to store water supplies for irrigation.
The Manilla River headwaters are situated in the Nandewar Ranges to the north. The river flows north through Barraba, turns south-east and continues to Split Rock Dam at Upper Manilla, after which it flows into the Namoi at the western side of The Junction at Manilla. Split Rock Dam was constructed during the 1980s for storage of water for irrigation purposes.