Cowra, New South Wales

Cowra, New South Wales

Infobox Australian Place | type = town
name = Cowra
state = nsw

caption = Location of Cowra in New South Wales (red)
lga = Cowra Shire
postcode = 2794
pop = 12,475 []
est = 1849
stategov = Burrinjuck
fedgov = Calare

Cowra is a town in the Central West of New South Wales, Australia in Cowra Shire. It is located 310m above sea-level and about 300 kilometres west of Sydney on the banks of the Lachlan River.

The original name for Cowra was "Coura Rocks". This may have been the name of one of the earliest cattle stations. This name is probably the name of the river ford where people could cross the Lachlan River.

The name Cowra comes from a local aboriginal term meaning "eagle on the rocks".

It should not be confused with another New South Wales town named Corowa.

Recent events

On 30 June 2008 a grandmother and her two grandchildren were allegedly killed by the woman's husband in an axe attack. Also the daughter of the murderer was injured. [cite news | first= Brad | last= Norington | author= | url= | title= Three dead in axe attack | work= Features | publisher= The Age | date=2008-06-30 | accessdate= 2008-06-30]

From July 10-13, St. Raphael's in Cowra hosted pilgrims from the United States, Singapore, and Zambia for Days in the Diocese for World Youth Day.

In April 2006 the local abattoir sacked 29 workers and rehired them the next day at a lower rate. This was just days after the Federal Government's industrial relations reforms, WorkChoices, were put in place, and the action attracted national media attention as one of the first employer actions under this new legislation. The workers were later reinstated at the old rate after pressure from all sides of Australian politics and media. [cite news | first= Brad | last= Norington | author= | url=,20867,19342116-28737,00.html | title= Hard labour ahead | work= Features | publisher= The Australian | date=2006-06-03 | accessdate= 2006-06-21] This abattoir later closed down in August 2006.

Cowra hosted Triple J's One Night Stand Concert on 20th April 2007 with Silverchair leading a lineup of Behind Crimson Eyes, Midnight Juggernauts and Funktrust, supported by Unearthed competition winners Flatline Drama, and local support Leap Of Faith.


The area was originally inhabited by the Wiradjuri people. The first white explorer, George Wilson Evans, entered the Lachlan Valley in 1815. He named the area the Oxley Plains after his superior the surveyor-general, John Oxley. In 1817 he deemed the area "unfit for white settlement". A Military Depot was established not long after at Soldiers Flat near present day Billimari. Arthur Ranken and James Sloan, from Bathurst, were amongst the first white settlers on the Lachlan. They moved to the area in 1831.

The township of Coura Rocks had its beginnings in 1840. By 1847 the township became known as Cowra. The village was proclaimed in 1849.

In the 1850s the many gold prospectors passed through headed for gold fields at Lambing Flat (Young) and Grenfell. The first school was established in 1857. The first bridge over the Lachlan River was built in 1870. Gold was discovered at Mount McDonald in the 1880s. The rail head, from Sydney, reached Cowra in 1886. Local government was granted in 1888. The first telephone exchange was established in 1901. The town water supply was established in 1909, the gasworks in 1912 and town supplied electricity was introduced in 1924.

Cowra is home to the Australian replica of the UN's World Peace Bell, an honour normally reserved for a nation's capital city, it was awarded to Cowra in recognition of its unique contribution to international understanding, promotion of peace and as a centre of world friendship.

The Cowra breakout

During World War II Cowra was the site of a prisoner of war (POW) camp. Most of the detainees were captured Japanese and Italian military personnel, On August 5, 1944 at least 545 (some sources suggest over 1000) Japanese POWs attempted a mass breakout from the camp, in perhaps the largest prison escape in world history. Simultaneously, other Japanese prisoners committed suicide, or were killed by their countrymen, inside the camp.

The actions of the POWs in storming machine gun posts, armed only with improvised weapons, showed what Prime Minister John Curtin described as a "suicidal disregard of life", and had no chance of success.

During the breakout and subsequent recapture of POWs, four Australian guards and 231 Japanese died, and 108 prisoners were wounded. The dead Japanese were buried in Cowra in a specially created Japanese War Cemetery. This is the only such cemetery in Australia, and also holds some of the dead from the WWII air raids on Darwin.

An Avenue of Honour also commemorates those who died in World War I.

Japanese Garden

The Japanese War Cemetery holding the dead from the Cowra Breakout was tended to after WWII by members of the Cowra RSL and ceded to Japan in 1963. In 1971 the Cowra Tourism Development decided to celebrate this link to Japan, and proposed a Japanese Garden for the town. The Japanese Government agreed to support this development as a sign of thanks for the respectful treatment of their war dead; the development also received funding from the Australian Government and private entities.

The garden was designed by Ken Nakajima (1914 - 2000), a world renowned designer of Japanese gardens at the time. The first stage was opened in 1979, with a second stage opened in 1986.

The gardens were designed in the style of the Edo period and are a "kaiyū-shiki" or strolling garden. They are designed to show all of the landscape types of Japan. At five hectares, the Cowra Japanese Garden is the largest Japanese garden in the Southern Hemisphere. An annual "Sakura Matsuri" (cherry blossom festival) is held in the gardens during late September and/or early October each year. The garden also hosts several other events during the year.

ee also

*Australian wine


External links

* [ Cowra Shire Council]
* [ Fact sheet on 1944 Cowra outbreak] , National Archives of Australia
* [ Cowra Wine Region]
* [ YouTube Video Featuring Cowra]

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