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Wilcannia is a small town of about 800 people, nearly 1000 kms west of Sydney, on the Darling River. Over half the population is indigenous. The traditional owners of the area are the Barkandji, meaning ‘people of the river’.
In 1983 I spent a month in Wilcannia making black and white photographs subsequently published in a book titled, ‘Wilcannia, Portrait of an Australian Town’, Harper & Row, 1986.
Twenty five years later, in 2008, I returned to see how things had changed and to reconnect with the community. I have been returning regularly ever since.
If you only relied on the media and statistics to form an opinion of Wilcannia, the picture would be grim. Unemployment, lower life expectancy, domestic violence, substance abuse, a litany of problems that shape perceptions of the town in the outside world.
As you spend time in Wilcannia, however, a much richer and more nuanced story emerges.
Wilcannia is a robust and vibrant community, where people are proud of their heritage and culture and are working to overcome the challenges they face with humour, dignity and solidarity.