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Henty is on the border of the South West Slopes and Riverina regions of New South Wales, midway between two of Australia’s greatest river systems, the Murray and the Murrumbidgee on the Olympic Highway (route of the 1956 Olympic torch journey to Melbourne).
Around 1835 saw the establishment of agriculture in the district, followed by the arrival by wagon from South Australia of settlers of German descent in the late 1860s and its establishment as the town of Henty in the late 1880s following the construction of the railway.
In 1888 the name Henty was proclaimed, named after Edward Henty (who had leased Round Hill Station to the south of Henty, in the early 1860s). The town’s original name of ‘Dudal Comer’ (pronounced doodle cooma, the local indigenous term for ‘sweet water’), led to confusion with the town of Cooma in the Monaro district.
Henty is perched on the shore of an ancient ebb and flow wetland. For periods during the year the wetland is dry and only after heavy rain is the water visible. The wetland habitat covers 2,023ha which now includes Doodle Cooma Swamp Nature Reserve and private land. Many ancient river redgums (some 400 years old) still stand and these attract a wide range of bird and animal life.
Henty is known as the ‘Home of the Header’ due to agricultural innovations that revolutionised world agriculture. In 1914, a local farmer, Headlie Taylor invented the header harvester. An authentic header harvester and blacksmith’s shop and sculpture of Headlie Taylor are located at Bicentennial Park, Olympic Highway. Open every day.
The Henty Government Dam Nature Reserve is a delight for bird lovers, where up to 140 different bird species either live or migrate for the season. The Reserve is only 750m off the Olympic Highway (access along the Pleasant Hills Road). Two walking tracks through the reserve allow visitors to enjoy the native vegetation and regional wildlife. The Doodle Cooma Landcare Group have established a living seed bank from local species of flora. Still in its early stages, this site will become a mecca for those interested in Australian Flora & Fauna.
During spring the district is a kaleidoscope of colour with fields of canola in full bloom for the Henty Machinery Field Days when thousands of people come from near and far to see the latest in agricultural displays. The Henty Machinery Field Days were first held in 1963, and now, this small town annually hosts a 3-day Field Day with over 60,000 people attending. It is the largest event of its kind in the country.
Located between the towns of Henty and Culcairn on the Olympic Highway, is the Henty Man. This sculpture was originally shaped by an itinerant worker in the early 1930’s from a tree burnt out by a swagman’s fire. It became a district landmark until it was destroyed by natural elements about 20 years later. At Henty’s Centenary celebrations in 1986 a restored Henty Man was dedicated to the “Men of the road who, through no fault of their own had to walk the length and breadth of Australia during the Great Depression seeking work...”
The Observer Printery Museum located in Lyre Street (behind Sladen Street) will allow you to understand and experience the way newspapers of yesteryear were developed and produced, with many of the old printing presses still in working condition.
Refusing to succumb to the fate of many other small rural towns, Henty has an active community committed to the town’s development and was the first town in NSW to develop and successfully run its own bank, the Henty Community Bendigo Bank. Other recent developments include a community club, an art gallery, a hospital and nursing home, library with IT facilities and a retirement village, a striking testament to how rural communities can compete with their city and regional cousins for business and industry investment.