Walgett is a town in north-central New South Wales, Australia and the seat of Walgett Shire Council. It is at the junction of the Barwon and Namoi rivers and near the junction of the Kamilaroi and Castlereagh Highway. In 2006, it had a population of 1,735 persons, including 822 (47.4%) indigenous persons and 1,457 (84.0%) Australian-born persons.
The current signage at the outskirts of the town indicates a population of 2,300 (June 2008) and an elevation of 130 metres.
It is a regional hub for the wool, wheat and cotton industries. It is the gateway to the New South Wales opal fields. The main crop farmed in the district is wheat, however the drought has caused an increase in the farming of lucerne and other good hay crops.
The town, like many other remote communities, has problems with crime linked to the abuse of drugs and alcohol.. As a result, many businesses have metal shutters to protect the premises from the street crime.
Euroka Station was purchased by Fred Wolseley in 1876 and was the site of the invention of the Wolseley Shearing Machine. The machine was tested at Bourke in 1888 on 184,000 sheep to eventually revolutionise the shearing industry.
Walgett's recent history includes the Freedom Rides in the late 1960s. The Freedom Riders arrived in Walgett on February 15th 1965. They protested outside the Walgett RSL Club because they had been told the club was refusing to admit Indigenous ex-servicemen. After their protest their bus was run off the road by a car driven by an unidentified person. This event led to Walgett, the Freedom Riders and the plight of Indigenous Australians in rural New South Wales getting national and international media attentions.
Walgett has a strong rugby league culture, and St. George Dragons player Ricky Walford played in the Walgett junior leagues. Walgett is also the home of the Barwon Brumbies rugby league side. Other notable players such as Peter Nichols, Jason Horan, Gavin Ruttley, Michael Latta and flying winger Tim Barklay have played for the Brumbies.
The Walgett Rams is the local Rugby side and is a leading team in the Western Plains Rugby Union Competition. Donovan Murphy would be the highest calibre player to have played for the Walgett Rams and is now following a career in Europe.
The Walgett and District Sporting Club provides facilities for tennis, golf and lawn bowls.
The local College hosts two major football carnivals each year. The Ricky Walford Shield and the Neville Thorne Shield are both knockout Rugby League competitions held in August by the Primary School and the High School respectively.
The pre-school, primary school and high school were re-structured in 2003, into the Walgett Community College. The College is a unique educational institute, and gave birth to the successful Yaama Maliyaa group who won several national awards in the Young Achiever's Australia in 2005.
A minor imaginary celebrity from Walgett was the character "Betty" from Hey Dad..!, and also her boyfriend Stan.
Banjo Paterson wrote two poems featuring Walgett - A Walgett Episode and Been There Before. In Been There Before Paterson relates the story of a visitor to the town who is down on his luck and who makes a wager that he can throw a stone from one bank of the river to another. The locals who know that stones of a reasonable mass are a rarity along the banks think they have fooled the visitor. However while...
The yokels laughed at his hopes o'erthrown,
And he stood awhile like a man in a dream;
Then out of his pocket he fetched a stone,
And pelted it over the silent stream --
He had been there before: he had wandered down
On a previous visit to Walgett town.
Interestingly, Paterson could not decide which river the town lies on - in the former poem he correctly says "Walgett, on the Barwon side", whereas in the latter he says "The Darling River, at Walgett town". The Darling River is formed at Brewarrina, much further west than Walgett, from the confluence of the Barwon and Culgoa Rivers.