Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal

Ngadjuri Country

The small agricultural township of Orroroo in South Australia knows what it’s like to suffer through drought. With several local businesses closing down and the community running the taxing gamut of drought-related issues, something different needed to be done.

Fortunately, this small outer regional area has a dedicated group of people who are behind the push to ensure the town’s survival, by celebrating and showcasing Australia’s pioneering agricultural history. In the past, the area has relied heavily on a thriving agricultural foundation, but they saw the need to improve their economic diversity, starting with a new tourist attraction.

Over the past few years, the District Council of Orroroo Carrieton, the Orroroo Regional Tourism Group and a team of amazing volunteers have dedicated themselves to very carefully restoring the locally-famed Black Rock Woolpress – a generously donated, circa 1850s piece of manual machinery, which early research suggests may very well be the only one of its kind left in existence.

Plans for the impressive woolpress to be showcased in its very own building in the main precinct of Orroroo came a step closer to reality, thanks to a $20,000 grant from FRRR’s Tackling Tough Times Together program, funded by the Australian Government.

The grant allowed for a formal business plan to be drawn up by a local consultant, confirming the feasibility of the Heritage Hub project. The plan required input from all areas of the community – those working on the project directly, as well as in the wider community motivated to create an attractive tourist destination. As well, the funds were put towards the planning, architectural drawings and raw materials needed to construct the purpose-built rotunda for the Black Rock Woolpress.

This seed funding enabled the planning committee to produce a proof of concept, which attracted $143,252 in further funding from FRRR’s Tackling Tough Times Together program, again funded by the Australian Government, along with grants from the Australian Government’s Local Roads and Community Infrastructure program and funding from the local Council.The stone and glass rotunda now houses the historic woolpress (circa 1851) as the centrepiece in a collection of heritage items on display as part of a landscaped Heritage trail in the town’s centre, with impressive interpretive signage, maps and promotional material. The FRRR grant also contributed to the official launch of the development, which recognise the generous funding organisations and the thousands of hours of volunteer involvement in restoring the woolpress.

District Council of Orroroo Carrieton community project officer Jodie Boully said “We have already had so many locals and visitors stop to comment how impressive the building is.

“It’s been such a huge success to date, a great story of local volunteers who have remained involved in the planning right the way through to highlight some of our early pioneer history.”

The project to create such an attractive tourist destination has already created strong bonds, with those in the community dedicated to seeing the town succeed despite the drought. They have self-funded, committed hundreds of hours of volunteered hours, and worked tirelessly together from the very beginning developing not only the beginnings of a beautifully built tourist hub, but a sustainable and diverse economic platform for the town to rebuild from.