Cockburn, South Australia

Cockburn /ˈkbərn/ is a town and locality in the Australian state of South Australia located in the east of the state at the border with New South Wales near Broken Hill. The town population consists of roughly 25 people with a greater regional community of 180 as of 2005.

South Australia
The (now unlicensed) Border Gate Hotel and the Cockburn Visitors Information Centre faces the Barrier Highway on the NSW side of the border adjacent to Cockburn
Coordinates32°04′44″S 140°59′47″E[1]
Population56 (part of locality only) (2016 census)[2] [lower-alpha 1]
Established29 April 1886 (town)
29 May 1997 (locality)[1]
Elevation213 m (699 ft)
Time zoneAEST (Eastern New South Wales) (UTC)
LGA(s)Pastoral Unincorporated Area[1]
RegionFar North[1]
State electorate(s) Stuart[3]
Federal Division(s)Grey [4]
Localities around Cockburn:
Mulyungarie Mulyungarie Tibooburra, New South Wales
Mulyungarie Cockburn Broken Hill, New South Wales
Pine Creek Station Pine Creek Station Unincorparated Far West
FootnotesAdjoining localities[1]


Huge ore deposits were discovered in Silverton, which prompted in 1884 the government of South Australia to offer to the Government of New South Wales the building of a narrow gauge railway line from the border to Silverton. This was seen to be necessary since horse-drawn transport could not cope with the transport of the ore through South Australia. This offer was rejected by the New South Wales government.

Local businesspeople, therefore, formed the Silverton Tramway in 1885 to build the railway line from Silverton to the border. The town of Cockburn came into existence in 1886 on the South Australia side of the border as a place for trains to exchange locomotives and crews. On the New South Wales side of the border, the Silverton Tramway Company built a station and a siding, called Burns.

Pressure for the expansion of Cockburn was increased with mineral discoveries at Thackaringa and Umberumberka from 1883 onwards. The silver-lead-zinc discovery at Broken Hill led to the railway line being extended from Silverton to Broken Hill in 1887. The route was extremely important , as it provided balanced trading for locomotives with a momentum grade 'up' from Broken Hill to Cockburn and a rising grade 'down' from Cockburn to Broken Hill. This was the main advantage of the route to and from Cockburn.

By 1892, the town of Cockburn had become sizable. The population was 2,000 people. Cockburn boasted two hotels, two general stores, three boarding houses, schools and churches. It contained within its business sector a blacksmith, butcher, baker, produce merchant and carrier. Stationed at Cockburn were two engineers, a stationmaster, customs officer, locomotive superintendent and a miner. A locomotive shed and related work facilities were recorded as existing in 1892. Seven trains regularly ran between Petersburg (now Peterborough), Cockburn and Broken Hill, and included passenger trains. In 1892, 83,194 passengers travelled through Cockburn.

Cockburn also has a role in industrial relations history in Broken Hill. Tom Mann, a political "disruptionist", was barred from speaking publicly in New South Wales. In 1908, 3,000 passengers came from Broken Hill to Cockburn to hear him speak. From the front of the hall, next to the Cockburn Hotel, he addressed the crowd. This was the beginning of a dispute known as the 1909 lockout. Broken Hill mining unionists were locked out of the company gates for rejecting pay cuts which would have been below the minimum wage.[5]

The standard gauge railway line, officially opened in 1970, runs south of the surveyed town limits of Cockburn and has a new station and a passing loop. The "new" station is now disused.

In the early 1990s the South Australian government proposed to close down the small communities along the Barrier Highway, leading to a strong and unified resistance from the local communities. In April 2006, the government planned to demolish five former railway houses.


Cockburn is located within the federal division of Grey, the state electoral district of Stuart and the Pastoral Unincorporated Area of South Australia.[4][3][1] As of 2018, the community within Cockburn received municipal services from a South Australian government agency, the Outback Communities Authority.[6]

See also


  1. For the 2016 census, the ‘State Suburb of Cockburn’ consisted only of the eastern end of the locality of Cockburn[1]


  1. "Search results for 'Cockburn, LOCB' with the following datasets being selected - 'Suburbs and Localities', 'Government Towns', 'Counties', 'Local Government Areas', 'SA Government Regions', 'Land Development Plan Zone Categories' and 'Gazetteer'". Location SA Map Viewer. Government of South Australia. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (27 June 2017). "Cockburn (SSC)". 2016 Census QuickStats. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  3. "District of Stuart Background Profile (2014-2018 boundaries)". Electoral Commission SA. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  4. "Federal electoral division of Grey" (PDF). Australian Electoral Commission. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  5. "2009 marks centenary of Broken Hill's BHP union Lockout". ABD Rural. Retrieved 19 May 2011.
  6. "Copley". Outback Communities Authority. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
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