Sturt Park was originally known as the Central Reserve. On July 3rd, 1892 it was the setting for a mass meeting of more than 6000 unionists who agreed to strike in protest of the termination of the 1890 contract which protected miners. The unionists were supported by Women’s Brigade members and mothers with children. Mine owners retaliated by importing non-union ‘scab labour’. The strike collapsed four months later when contract mining was reinstated.
In 1943, the Broken Hill City Council renamed Central Reserve, which became Sturt Park to honour the centenary of the explorations of Captain Charles Sturt, the British explorer who famously passed through the Barrier Ranges and what is now Broken Hill, in search of an inland sea (though 65 million years too late). Sturt was a colonial administrator who mapped large areas of previously uncharted land, including the Simpson Desert and the Darling River.
Sturt Park is now a shady oasis of rose gardens and lawns in the heart of Broken Hill. Over the century and a half since that famous gathering in 1892, it has been the site of sporting events, the town swimming pool, weddings, commemorative ceremonies, and several historic public assemblies. Now it is a peaceful setting for a number of memorials.
The most famous memorial in the park is the stone monument to the Titanic bandsmen who, as the inscription reads: ‘played to the end’. Legend has it that the brass band on the sinking Titanic ocean liner continued to play as the ship went down. The Titanic story caught the imaginations and hearts of the community and the musicians of the many brass bands of Broken Hill: the city band and the union bands, miner’s bands and women’s bands and Salvation Army bands, school bands and military bands. The memorial was paid for by the community.
A plaque is set in a stone beneath the overhanging branches of a big old fig tree. It acknowledges the remarkable Afghan cameleers who serviced the outback for over 50 years. In fact, without the Ghans, as they were known, the centre of Australia would not have been accessible.
There is a memorial to John Curtain, Labor party leader and wartime prime minister between 1941-1945. The plaque was erected by the Women’s Branch of the Australian Labor Party.
A lone pine tree, planted by the students of Broken Hill schools, remembers the 75th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli.
There is a plaque to commemorate the Salvation Army’s role in the history of Broken Hill.
A lesser-known, small personal plaque was discovered by Sturt Park gardeners. It is in memory of Helen Alker, beloved wife of a Broken Hill health inspector, and it is the oldest memorial to a woman in the city.
Significant upgrades to the children’s playground by Broken Hill City Council were completed in 2020. A new skatepark was opened in 2022.
Sturt Park is a place to sit quietly, surrounded by flowers and well-tended gardens, and perhaps reflect on the rich history of the Silver City.