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Woolgoolga: Quiet holiday resort noted for its large Sikh population.

Woolgoolga is a pleasant and leisurely seaside town which spreads from the hills down to the beach side. It is located 586 km north-east of Sydney and 25 km north of Coffs Harbour, Woolgoolga is famous for its large Indian community, its Sikh temples and its Indian restaurants. The traveller, noting the Guru Nanak Sikh Temple on one side of the road and the large Indian complex a few hundred metres further north, would be forgiven for thinking they were not in the New South Wales northern rivers district but in part of the Punjab.

Before European settlement the Woolgoolga area was inhabited by the Gumbaingirr Aborigines. It was the northern extremity of a territorial area which was bounded by Dorrigo to the west and Nambucca Heads to the south.

There is some evidence that the town's name was derived from the original run owned by Thomas Small which was called Weelgoolga. No one knows exactly what this word means but it is believed it was used by the local Aborigines as a term to describe both the entire area and the lily-pilly trees which grew in the area.

By the 1830s cedar cutters were in the area but it wasn't until the 1870s that any permanent European settlement occurred. The village, originally known as Woogoolga was officially gazetted in 1888. The name was changed to Woolgoolga in 1966.

By the end of the 19th century timber milling and the cutting of cedar were important in the area although Woolgoolga was never a major timber milling centre. Apart from the timber activity there were a number of attempts to farm a variety of crops. By the 1890s there was a jetty near the town which was being used by the sawmills and there was some sugar farming in area. The area proved unsatisfactory for sugar cane. By the turn of the century bananas were being grown but it was not until around the 1930s that they were grown with any success.

Around the turn of the century a substantial number of Indian migrants, probably attracted to the area by banana farming, moved south from Queensland and settled. They are the ancestors of the modern town's substantial Sikh community. They were the descendants of Punjabi migrants who had originally come to Australia to work on the Queensland canefields. Today the Sikhs represent about 25 per cent of the total population of Woolgoolga. They are a mixture of the descendants of the original settlers and immigrants who, over the past century, have come to join relatives and to marry within the community. Today Woolgoolga is an interesting and peaceful seaside holiday destination. It has the usual attractions of swimming, surfing and fishing. This is distinctively modified by its unique Indian and Sikh connections.

Further north along the highway, roads on the right lead to beach resorts at Mullaway, Arrawarra, Corindi Beach and Red Rock.

Matt Hayes
Po Box 291
Banyo 4014
Queensland, Australia

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