In 1870 a colonial government, on the brink of collapse, made an audacious move. South Australia’s squabbling politicians briefly put aside their differences and took the bold decision to run an iron wire to the middle of nowhere and beyond. Stringing the Overland Telegraph Line across the silent heart of the continent was a momentous event in the country’s history. It connected Adelaide to a global network of cables and wire: those travelling up and down the track through central Australia were seldom out of earshot of its hum. Alice Springs was its most important repeater station.
Alice Springs: From singing wire to iconic outback town is the result of eight years meticulous research unravelling the early history of central Australia’s first white settlement. It contains information, never previously published, about that little outpost – a significant heritage site – and how an iconic town was born nearby, during a goldrush that made few people rich. It is a tale of the country’s heart and some of its most remarkable but little-known characters, and of children torn between two cultures living at the telegraph station after the morse keys stopped clicking in 1932; children under the shadow of the most controversial piece of legislation in Australia’s history.
Central Australia has a black history. Alice Springs is no longer the small, outback community romanticised in Nevil Shute’s novel A Town Like Alice. But its people, black and white, are still living on the line.