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Wilcannia Tourism Association working on reputation

Tuesday, 22nd April, 2014

Nakiah Cahill and the team at Wilcannia River Radio keep the locals entertained with music and interviews. Nakiah Cahill and the team at Wilcannia River Radio keep the locals entertained with music and interviews.

By Darrin Manuel

Wilcannia has long struggled with a bad reputation, but one group of locals is looking to change that perception - one tourist at a time.

Around four years ago the Wilcannia Community Tourism Association was formed in the local golf club, and its members instantly set about reversing people’s perceptions about the river town.

The Association has since launched a variety of projects to entice tourists such as better signage, brochures, and a new informative website.

The group has also worked to physically better the town and in the process won recognition - including a high commendation for Heritage Conservation and the Bush Spirit Award from Tidy Towns - and secured numerous grants for community projects and running a number of Clean Up Australia drives.

The group is hoping that the improvements will help tourists forget the town’s problems with alcohol and violence, which have been well documented in the past few decades.

Association president Bill Elliott said Wilcannia was gradually overcoming the stigma of being a “problem town”, leaving it poised to finally showcase its rich history and considerable sights to tourists.

The township was proclaimed in 1866, and soon became the third largest inland port in the country for river boats with a population of around 3,000.

With 13 hotels, its own newspaper, and streets lined with handsome sandstone buildings, the flourishing town soon became known as “the Queen City of the West.”

The end of the great river boat era sadly saw the town gradually decline, and today the population sits at around 600.

Many of the town’s original historical buildings remain today, and are of great fascination to the tourists who stop there.

Getting more tourists to stop, however, is the primary challenge facing the town, according to Mr Elliott.

He said many people in surrounding towns in the region warn travellers not to stop at Wilcannia, depriving the town of valuable business and exposure.

But Mr Elliott said Wilcannia was gradually winning the battle, and was now seeing more and more families stopping to take in the sights.

“We’ve probably had three to four times more people calling in lately, a lot of people use Wilcannia as a base and head out to White Cliffs,” he said.

“And when they stop here they’re amazed by the old buildings and the heritage, and just how friendly people here actually are.”

Anyone seeking further information on Wilcannia and its attractions can visit wilcanniatourism.com.au.

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