Kamilaroi meaning: Fire for Roasting
Pronunciation: Wee War
Situated 576km north west of Sydney on the Kamilaroi Highway, Wee Waa is the birthplace of Australia’s modern cotton industry.
It is renowned as the oldest settlement along the meandering length of the Namoi River, bearing a history as unique and diverse as the area it encompasses. Although Wee Waa now sustains a diverse and powerful agricultural industry, the town initially grew out of the need for a centre of justice. From as far back as 1846, Wee Waa serviced its locality and the greater region in all court and judicial matters. It fulfilled this role for more than 10 years before court proceedings were moved to nearby Narrabri and farther west to Walgett, as the surrounding region became settled.
Although the town’s early development stemmed from its judicial responsibilities, Wee Waa soon became a supply centre for rural settlers grazing cattle and sheep. Then as land was cleared, cereal crops became a valuable livelihood for rural families and remain so today.
The introduction of rail services in 1901 further aided the town and district’s development.
As the community evolved, residents sought a way to share their expertise and display the land’s productive capabilities. Hence the Wee Waa Show movement was initiated in 1912, but despite abundant support, war and depression delayed the inaugural show until 1927. It became – and remains – one of the town’s proudest traditions, standing apart from other agricultural shows today by offering something new and different every year.
Wee Waa continued on its leisurely pattern of growth despite suffering recurrent flooding and loosing main street buildings to fire. It soon acquired educational facilities, parks, retail outlets, pubs and clubs, sporting grounds and other facilities that create a leisurely and social environment.
Of particular interest is the town’s architecture. The Imperial Hotel in Rose St was the first three-storey structure to be built in north west NSW and features magnificent iron lace adorned balconies, conjuring up scenes of the days when Cobb and Co coaches were familiar sights. The Wee Waa Court House in Rose St provides another reminder of Wee Waa’s early history, and the unique sloped roof of the local police station injects variety into the built landscape.
In the early 1960s, two Californian families recognised Wee Waa’s untapped potential for growing cotton. The Hadleys and Kahls brought to Australia the expertise and technology of the American cotton industry and plunged the district into frenzied expansion. Other local farmers soon “cottoned on” and the industry gained local, regional and national momentum. Today, the Namoi Valley is synonymous with cotton and Wee Waa is recognised widely as the Cotton Capital of Australia.
Together, the people of the Namoi and the industries they live by not only sustain, but also strengthen Wee Waa and the wider region