Bourke is not merely a town but a region that is the figurative demarcation between Outback Australia
and the east as anything to its west is referred to the ‘Back o Bourke’ a colloquial term etched deep in Australian language meaning to be a long way away from anything. On the contrary, may be far away from 'civilisation' but the further out you go, the closer you get to the essence of this land. Maybe that is what Lawson was alluding.
By the 1890's, Bourke was a major port for the transport of the southern Queensland
and northern NSW wool clip that was transported down the Darling to the Murray River
and onto Adelaide
for ship transport overseas.
The Port of Bourke was the focus of the world’s wool industry with up to 80 riverboats servicing the region.
The opening of the rail system in Australia
and the unreliability of the river flow saw the gradual demise of the 'River Highway' by the early 20th century.
This by no means spelled the end of Bourke and today it is a town that still, in essence, is the same it was back then; a town on the edge of the wilderness with great historical, cultural and geographic significance.
"if you know Bourke, you know Australia" so wrote the famous Australian poet Henry Lawson in 1882.
Text courtesy of Outback NSW Tourism