Kiandra - Culture and History

Kiandra (it was originally called Giandara or Giandarra Plain - the term may have meant 'sharp stone' in the language of the local Aborigines) has an elevation of 1400 metres and was, until the establishment of Cabramurra, the highest township in Australia.

Kiandra's moment of glory occurred in a few months from 1859-1860. The rush broke out after payable gold was discovered by David and James Pollock (two men who had been bringing their cattle to graze on the summer pastures in the area for some years) in what became known as Pollock's Gully in November 1859. People came from all over Australia and what had once been isolated grazing country suddenly became a boom town. By March 1860 there were more than 10 000 people on the goldfields. Several thousand endured the winter snows. They were ill-prepared and many were forced to see out the winter in canvas tents. However the rewards were extraordinary. The Sydney Morning Herald of 25 February 1860 reported: 'One party before dinner got 176 oz (4981 grams) and another got one lump weighing 19 lb (8603 grams).'

These rewards were short lived. The rich and shallow alluvial gold was worked out in a year and by March 1861 the Sydney Morning Herald was reporting 'Great exodus from Kiandra...nearly all gone to Lambing Flat'. Late in 1861 Kiandra's population had dropped to 250.

The gold escort removed 67 687 ozs (19 155 kg) in 1860 and 16 567 ozs (4688 kg) in 1861. The official total production was 172 000 ozs (48 676 kg). The gold was mostly alluvial and large nuggets up to 28 pounds (12 678 gm) in weight were found.

Mining continued on a small scale until about 1905 but most of this was done by sluicing and dredging.

What is left of Kiandra is located on the Snowy Mountains Highway no more than 300 metres from the turnoff to Mt Selwyn and Cabramurra. It is an indictment of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service that many of the old buildings were burnt or bulldozed by the service in an act of extraordinary historical vandalism. Not surprisingly it is hard to find anyone in the Snowy Mountains area who has a kind word to say about Parks and Wildlife.

All that is now left of the old township is the courthouse and some ruins.

Over the years Kiandra has developed a remarkable skiing mythology.  The first skiing competition and the first ski club in the world were established in Kiandra.  Certainly it is known that the residents of Kiandra were skiing in 1861 after some Norwegian miners had shown other miners how to convert a fence post into a workable ski and by the 1870s there were competitions and a ski club had been established in the area. It is now widely accepted that these competitions and the club were the first in the world. The argument is based on the proposition that Canadians, Americans and Europeans had only ever used skis as a means of winter transport. In Kiandra they were used for sporting activities. One thing is certain - Kiandra, being the highest town in Australia until the establishment of Cabramurra, was the first Australian town where skiing was commonplace in wintertime.