Kamilaroi Meaning: Forked Waters
The town’s name means ‘forked waters’, which aptly describes the splintering waterways you will see as you pass over the Namoi River, the Narrabri Creek and the creek’s sub-branch, Horse Arm Creek.
The term derives from the language of the original occupants, the Kamilaroi tribe, which still constitute a portion of the local population. In 1818, John Oxley became the first European to explore the district. Allan Cunningham explored the Boggabri Plains in 1825 and escaped convict George Clarke roamed what is now Narrabri Shire from 1826-1831. His tales of a vast inland river prompted the expedition of Thomas Mitchell into the district, thereby opening it up to settlement.
The first squatting run was the ‘Nurrabry’, taken up in 1834. A town site was first recommended in 1848 at what had become a road junction to the south and west. A hotel was licensed in 1858 and the town was proclaimed in 1860. A post office and police station were established but a catastrophic flood devastated the township in 1864.
An early sign of the town’s importance was the transfer of court services from Wee Waa and the building of a courthouse in 1864-65. A coach service commenced in 1865 and the first public school opened in 1868.
After the Robertson Land Act of 1861, the area was slowly opened up to smaller selectors, and wheat-growing began in 1873. Consequently, the population climbed from 313 in 1871 to 1977 in 1891. The town’s growth in size and prosperity is evident by comparing the two surviving courthouses, one built in the 1860s and the other in the 1880s .
Bridges were built over Narrabri Creek in 1877 and over the Namoi in 1879. The railway arrived at Narrabri West in 1882 and a settlement began to develop around it. Narrabri was declared a municipality in 1883.
Today, Narrabri is the administrative heart of the second richest agricultural Shire in Australia. Not only is it in the centre of a major cotton growing industry, it boasts other agricultural industries such as wheat, beef and lamb.
Set against the backdrop of the Nandewar Ranges and on the banks of the Namoi River, Narrabri is an energetic regional centre offering a wonderful selection of shops, restaurants, museums and a large array of tourist attractions. These include Mount Kaputar National Park, the Australia Telescope Compact Array at the Paul Wild Observatory (administered by the CSIRO) and a number of agricultural centres. Just to the south of town is the Pilliga Forest, the largest remnant temperate forest in eastern Australia. In addition, Narrabri boasts The Crossing Theatre, a 1000-seat auditorium and cinema complex of a standard normally only found in larger Australian communities.
Narrabri Shire was named “Australia’s Sportiest Town” by Channel 7’s “Today Show”, as a result of the large number of shire residents who have represented their sport on a state, national and international level. This title is also evidenced by the shire’s large number of ovals and sporting clubs.
Narrabri has a wide selection of eating experiences and is known for local produce such as olives and olive oils, sundried tomatoes, wine and tea. It also boasts a foodie culture, which is best showcased at the town’s annual Nosh on the Namoi food and wine festival in March. This event brings together dozens of exhibitors from all over the region and further afield for a weekend of tantalising cuisine and entertainment.