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Barrier Rangers hike to 50 years

Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

Some Barrier Rangers, current and former, at the end of their walk to Mt Gipps this week. (From left) Majorie Raetz, Michael Raetz, Margaret Lesjak, Jeffrey Vaughan, Robert Lewin, Christine Perrers, David Merritt, Diane Monn, Geoff Spangler, Kim Browne and Swami Burns. PICTURE: Callum Marshall Some Barrier Rangers, current and former, at the end of their walk to Mt Gipps this week. (From left) Majorie Raetz, Michael Raetz, Margaret Lesjak, Jeffrey Vaughan, Robert Lewin, Christine Perrers, David Merritt, Diane Monn, Geoff Spangler, Kim Browne and Swami Burns. PICTURE: Callum Marshall

By Callum Marshall

The Barrier Rangers are celebrating their 50th anniversary with a lot of long walks and people have come from near and far for the occasion.

The group was formed in Broken Hill in March 1969 to give everyone the chance to explore our landscape, learn more about it and appreciate its beauty.

Barrier Rangers’ Secretary, Margaret Lesjak, said the past week-and-a-half of walks had been a fabulous experience.

“We did walks on most days but there were a couple of days’ break as well, especially for former locals who got to revisit their old homes and see what had changed over time,” said Ms Lesjak.

“We started over Easter when we all went up to a special Barrier Rangers’ spot near White Cliffs.

“It was fabulous because there was nobody else there except others in the group, and it was great for camping, going for a walk and getting views.

“Since then there’s been daily walks organised by various trip leaders.”

Ms Lesjak said that the group had gone to Mount Vulcan, explored Silverton and  the Daydream Mine, taken in a moonlight walk and held a ‘Galah Evening’ where everyone dressed up, had fun and swapped stories and photos.

More than 50 people had taken part in the activities, she said, with some  coming in at certain times for particular walks.

On Tuesday afternoon a core group finished a walk to the Mount Gipps Hotel.

“It’s been full on walking,” said Ms Lesjak. “They’ve been about 12 to 16 kilometre walks that people have done, and people have really enjoyed it. 

“The ones who’ve come from Bega Valley, who haven’t lived in Broken Hill, have found it quite different.”

It had also been great for those who had come back to Broken Hill and met up with old friends, she said.

Among them was a co-founder and former ABC journalist and radio presenter, Tony O’Brien. 

“We were formed at the YMCA way back in March 1969, and 65 people attended our very first walk, which was at Mutawintji,” said Mr O’Brien.

“It was a reserve in those days, it hadn’t been declared a national park, and in the 18 years I was in Broken Hill we did bushwalking, climbing, canoeing and all sorts of what used to be called ‘ruck-sack sports.’

“That included skiing during winter, and it provided an avenue for people who came from away to Broken Hill who were saying, ‘there’s nothing to do here.’ 

“But they didn’t see the beauty of the countryside and the significance of the town’s history.

“There were a lot of people who got a great deal of benefit out of it.”

When asked why he had created the group, Mr O’Brien said it had initially been for self-interest.

“I had been introduced to rock climbing a few years earlier in South Australia,” he said.

“We used to drive across the border into Victoria to do climbing there and when a career opportunity came to join the ABC here in Broken Hill I was somewhat saddened there wasn’t anywhere to climb.

“Initially, we dropped into a few old mine shafts with a view of climbing out of them, but that turned out to be somewhat hazardous, so we then decided to form a club and, lo and behold, out of the woodwork came 65 people. 

“And it’s still going, which is amazing.”

When he heard the rangers were celebrating their 50th anniversary, Mr O’Brien said he had to come back, although he didn’t go on the walks because of his age.

He said he was driving some of the walkers around and helping out in other ways needed. 

The Barrier Rangers had been a great drawcard for a whole range of people over the years, he said.

“It’s about exploring the region and looking at what makes the West Darling important. 

“And it’s kind of significant that the last walk was up Mount Darling because for me it has all those little evocative things that warm your heart when you suddenly think of Broken Hill.”

If you would like to explore our beautiful backyard you can contact with the group on their Facebook page, ‘Barrier Rangers - Broken Hill bush walking group’ or email: barrierrangers@gmail.com

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