When Europeans moved into these parts of the now New England Region in the 1830s, they squatted on land long-familiar to local indigenous families of the Kamilaroi [Gomeroi/Gamilaraay language] Nation of the Central North-west region of New South Wales. Kamilaroi Nation boundaries 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. 

Manilla's indigenous history as recorded in previous publications, centred around the "Borah Crossing" area near today's Lake Keepit where around 30 indigenous people were known to be camped in the late 1800s. A bigger picture would place aboriginal occupation far further afield, through  country surrounding and within the town limits of present day Manilla and particularly the ground at the joining of the Namoi and Manilla rivers known as "The Junction", pictured here in 1900. Aboriginal people were known to camp in this area well into the 20th century. Very little information exists in print with regard to the interaction of local peoples in the early days of European settlement. It is however recorded, that in 1901 the Aborigines Protection Board at Philip street Sydney, responded favourably to a request by the Manilla Progress Committee for the removal of native people to Borah Crossing by application to the Lands Department for the granting of 20 acres for a reserve.

Stories in language translated to English
Yuwaalaraay gaay Gamilaraay garay
by Joanna Boileau 2007
T.R.C. Community based heritage study
J. Boileau 2007 Town Histories
Junction of the Manilla & Namoi rivers c.1900
former Kamilaroi 
Manilla river to the left, joining the Namoi, accessible on foot from North Manilla just east of the Mandowa Bridge. 

Much is to be uncovered of 19th century incidents of attack and conflict. 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 recorded. It is increasingly important that these 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.

Map of Australia with NSW Regions map showing Tamworth Region (©Regional Arts NSW / Outback Arts)
Tamworth Regional Council Boundaries map (©Tamworth Regional Council)
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'.

D. Nichol (currently being updated)

Jim Carey, Tamworth Regional Council 2006


*line taken from the poem "My Country" by Dorothea Mackellar

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. 

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. 

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.

Currently monitoring our local situation is retired earth scientist Garry Speight, who has been 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 published in the "Manilla Express" from June 2007 onwards, can be found in the 'Archives' panel on his CLIMATE BLOG. 


Originally mulerindi (Gamilaraay)
Pron. Mullarindi  written "Meulerindi"
in early histories.

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.


External LINK [new window]

Originally maniil-y (Gamilaraay)
Pron. Mun-ill-ay  written "Manellae"
in early histories.

The Manilla River headwaters are situated in the Nandewar Ranges to the north. The river flows through Barraba 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.


Nichol_ The Junction Info Panel 2013



NB: This content is subject to ongoing research and review. Duplicate outdated texts may exist elsewhere on the internet.​ Please check here  for current editions.
Images: Manilla Community Archive unless otherwise stated.
Text Edits: ©Diana Nichol  2000-2020   E: |

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