The town of Southern Cross, WA, was once a rich goldmining settlement but today it stakes its claim on a national emblem.

Story By John Dunn

When Tom Riseley, Mick Toomey and their Aboriginal helper “Wheelbarrow” were looking for gold in the back blocks beyond Perth in 1888, they were told of a find some distance away to the east. There were no landmarks to guide them but their informant Charles Crossland, a government surveyor, pointed skywards to the Southern Cross and said: “If you steer a few degrees east of the constellation you will strike a range of ironstone hills where the natives say there is “plenty feller gold”. The trio followed the stars, reached their destination and found some sizeable nuggets. Appropriately, they named the spot Southern Cross and today, more than a century later, it is a small but flourishing centre with 1100 people, 370 kilometres from Perth on the Great Eastern Highway. It proudly proclaims, in several different ways, its title and its patriotic link with the national flag. Signs describe it as “a five-star town” and a logo at each end features a stylised version of the star grouping that is the principal constellation in the skies of the Southern Hemisphere. Southern Cross’s streets are aptly named after stellar associations. There’s Antares Street, Centaur Street, Canopus Street, Andromeda Court and Libra Place and others with names such as Orion, Taurus and Phoenix as well as Polaris Lake. Residents Paul and Michelle Martin fly the Australian flag from their roof because they feel that “the stars of the Southern Cross should be displayed as prominently as possible in a town that carries its name”.

This story excerpt is from Issue #63

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2009