Bob Hawke’s Bordertown

Hawke’s House

A drive through the Western Highway towards Adelaide, the unmissable sight of high flying flags bearing the image of former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, assures that ‘Bordertown’ is reached. Bordertown is a small South Australian town near the Victorian border. In spite of the name this little town is around 18km from the Victoria – South Australia border.

A Bust of Bob Hawke outside Tatiara District Council Office in Woolshed Street, Bordertown

Bob Hawke was born in Bordertown in 1929 and spent his early years there. The house located at Farquhar Street in Bordertown was originally a bank building. “Hawke House “was built in 1884 and operated as a bank until the bank branch closed in 1895. t was a private home until 1897 when it was bought by the Congregational Church for £420 to be used as a manse. Church allotted the house to Bob’s father Clem who was a congregational minister. The Hawke Family lived there until 1935.

Photo: Toddler Bob Hawke in a tin bath in the backyard of his Bordertown home (Hawke family archive: Australian Story)

The history of Bordertown

The aboriginal name for this area was “Tatiara” which means good country. Bordertown is the administrative centre of Tatiara district council and the creek here is also named Tatiara creek.

Tatiara Creek

The earliest pioneers to Bordertown were young Scotsmen who in 1845 came from Adelaide via Wellington with aboriginal guides to find the “Good Country”. John and Charles Scott established Cannawigara station, John Binnie Wirrega, Louden McLeod Nalang and Robert Lawson Padihaway stations.

The discovery of Gold in Victoria in 1851 led to an exodus of South Australians to Victoria. As those going to Victoria took their money with them and the Gold found remained in Victoria, South Australia had almost become bankrupt. Captain Tolmer arrived in South Australia in 1839 after serving in the Spanish – Portuguese war. He opened a mail route along the Coorong to the South East in 1848.

Tatiara Park

Tolmer suggested the establishment of a Police escort to travel along the direct route to Mt Alexander. Collect the Gold from SA miners and bring it back to Adelaide. Tolmer and his party of two constables and an aboriginal guide camped at Scott’s woolshed at Bordertown on the third night of first escort. A half way station was established here where the troopers would rest and change horses. Between February 10th 1852 and 21st December 1853, 18 successful gold escorts were conducted and Gold to the value of around three million dollars were delivered safely back to Adelaide. Scott’s woolshed was recognised as a resting place for travellers and a meeting place for those in the area. Constructed of red gum slabs, it once stood where the Police Station is now located at woolshed street in Bordertown.

In 1852 land allotments were near Scott’s woolshed as a plan to establish a town. Captain Tolmer surveyed the route through 90 Mile desert and suggested that a depot be established at Bordertown. He was expecting the authorities to name the town after him but was very upset when it was named ‘Bordertown’ though it was 18km away from the border.

The places of interest in the town

Bordertown Railway Station

In 1872, Tatiara was proclaimed as an agricultural area and land made available on credit, which attracted many wheat farmers to the area. The cost of transporting the grain was considerable so a railway line was suggested. The line from Kingston was extended to Narcoote to Custon. In 1881 Custon was a large town where upto 60 teams arrived and unloaded their wheat in a day. After much agitation the line was extended to Wolseley and Bordertown in 1883. The broad-gauge line from Adelaide to Victorian Border was officially opened at Bordertown in 1886.

The current railway station building was completed in 1914.

Bordertown Wildlife Park

The White Kangaroos of Bordertown Wildlife Park

This park allows visitors to view the animals from outside the fences. This park also has the only known colony of albino Western Grey Kangaroos. The first white buck was caught and brought in to the park in 1981. Over the years nearly 50 white Joeys have been born to both grey and white mothers. White Kangaroos from here are sent to private and public parks and reserves all over Australia. The park also has peacocks, Dama Wallabies as well as a variety of birdlife

Clayton Farm Historic Site and Agricultural Museum

Located only 3km south of Bordertown, former home of the Wiese family, on the Naracoorte Road this is one of the most interesting historic farms in the country. it has an extraordinary collection of historic farm buildings made from traditional materials – limestone, grasses and a variety of gums – and some outstanding and very significant historic farm machinery.

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