Tamworth celebrates bicentenary with year-long Tamworth 200 campaign

The Northern Daily Leader is launching its year-long #Tamworth200 campaign. We will tell the stories of what makesthe city tick through the eyes and lives of some of the people who have called this place home, as the city celebrates 200 years since explorer John Oxley first camped along the Peel River.

TWO HUNDRED years ago, explorer John Oxley became the first white person to discover Tamworth when he camped on and named the Peel River.

It became the first name for Tamworth until it was changed soon after to what we know it as today. 

The city is now gearing up to celebrate the bicentenary of European Tamworth, after Oxley entered into the ancient lands of the Kamilaroi, accompanied by his competent deputy George William Evans with a party of 14, largely convicts, together with 19 pack-horses, on September 2, 1818.

He proceeded to name it Peel's River after Robert Peel, who later became the Prime Minister of England.

Oxley was seeking to reach the coast after being thwarted in his attempts to trace the course of the Macquarie River, possibly to an inland sea, by the impassable Macquarie Marshes.

Heading east he encountered further difficulties in the Pilliga Scrub and the gorge country east of Walcha, before eventually reaching the later site of Port Macquarie, where a convict settlement soon followed, and making his way with great difficulty down the coast to Port Stephens.

Oxley was very impressed with the potential of the Peel Valley, which he named Goulburn Vale.

Being later a major shareholder in the Australian Agricultural Company, which was granted a million acres in NSW by the British government, his recommendations eventually led to the settlement at Peel's River.

HISTORY: Historic photo of Tamworth CBD.

HISTORY: Historic photo of Tamworth CBD.

Establishing a sheep and wool industry, centred first at Calala (the indigenous name for the river) and later at Goonoo Goonoo, the AA Company maintained a wealthy presence in the Peel Valley until 1985 when the remnants of Goonoo Goonoo Station were sold.

Tamworth was most unusual in comprising two towns in its early days: the government town on the east of the river and the (AA) Company town on the west side.

It’s interesting to note that there were Peel and Fitzroy streets at one time on each side of the river.

The name Oxley has since been well integrated into Tamworth and its surrounds, with the likes of Oxley Vale, Oxley Lookout, Oxley Highway, and Oxley High School.

To mark the bicentenary, a working group comprising members of the Tamworth Historical Society, is heading up year-long celebrations to recognise the city’s history and culture. 

It’s a move Kamilaroi elder Len Waters welcomes.

“Like anything, it’s a milestone to celebrate,” Mr Waters said.

“Aboriginal people haven’t been discarded. 

“It’s important to acknowledge that we all live in this beautiful place. 

“There is certainly a lot of Aboriginal culture in this area.

“Tamworth has really embraced our culture, particularly over the last 10 or 20 years.”

Mr Waters said Aboriginal culture had become “a showpiece of any major event” in Tamworth through things like welcome to country.

“It’s a good thing,” Mr Water said of the bicentenary celebrations.

“It’s just making sure we’re acknowledged along the way. The historical society has always included Aboriginal culture. I think we have a very harmonious community. 

“We’ve got to look at the bigger picture, and the bigger picture is telling us that Tamworth is embracing indigenous culture.

“We’re being included in the future planning of the town.”

Mr Waters said local history had mostly acknowledged its Aboriginal people.

“Early historians have always documented Aboriginal occupation in the Tamworth area,” he said.

“You’ve got to be proud of being part of this city.

“It’s very important we celebrate it together.

“We all live here, nothing is done in isolation. 

“You learn from the things we did good, and the things we don’t do so well. 

“Everywhere you go in Tamworth, you see Aboriginal culture, whether it’s the flag or a site. 

“We’re maturing, we’re growing up, we’re not discounting the past, but we’re moving forward together.”

TCMF founder Max Ellis. Photo: Gareth Gardner

TCMF founder Max Ellis. Photo: Gareth Gardner

As part of the city’s bicentenary celebrations, The Northern Daily Leader is launching its year-long #Tamworth200 campaign. 

The campaign aims to tell the stories of local people from all walks of life who have made important contributions to the history and culture of Tamworth. 

Some of these contributions have been ground breaking and life changing, others have been the work of quiet achievers or quirky, fascinating characters.

Perhaps you know of someone who fits the bill. 

Maybe you’re related to one of these people. 

We want to hear your stories. 


From profiling Mr Oxley, to the Tamworth Country Music Festival founder Max Ellis; from our high-profile movers, shakers and politicians, to the local dry cleaner who’s been in the game for three decades; from the lollipop lady to the colourful bar fly, we want to celebrate all the people who make this city what it is.

The campaign will tell the stories of what makes the city tick through the eyes and lives of some of the people who have called this place home. 

The #Tamworth200 campaign will see a different profile story on each of our faces of Tamworth be rolled out on our website each day until the formal bicentenary celebrations in September.

With TCMF officially wrapping up for another year on Sunday night, we’re kicking off our #Tamworth200 campaign on Monday with our first face, TCMF founder Max Ellis. 

The 81-year-old has called Tamworth home for 51 years. 

He says it’s the people that he loves most.

It’s a sentiment that most other people The Leader has sat down with, share. 

“It’s a country town, but it’s a go-ahead country town,” Mr Ellis said. 

“It is a town that has a pride in what it is and what it can do for people.”

We want to help tell your stories of what Tamworth means to you. 

If you think you’ve got a good story to tell, or know an interesting character who does, we’d love to hear from you. 

To find out more, visit www.northerndailyleader.com.au and follow the prompts to the #Tamworth200 tab. 

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