Once a thriving goldmining town, Cue is today one of Australia's most famous ghost towns. Known as the 'Queen of the Murchison', at the turn of the 20th century Cue was the centre of the Murchison Goldfields boasting a population of around 10 000, now all that is left is a small settlement (current population is around 300) with some of the most grandiose buildings to be seen anywhere in rural Western Australia.

The whole of this fascinating place is heritage listed as a town of significant historical value. The main street has changed little since it was first built. There are several buildings within the townsite that are icons in their own right. These include the Post & Telegraph Offices, Savings Bank, Warden's Office, Mining Registrar's Office, Police Station, Police & Land Office, Inspecting Surveyors Office and associated quarters (1897); Masonic Hall (1899).

Looking at the town now with its shuttered buildings, its sleepiness, and a few Aborigines mooching around the elegant rotunda, it is hard to imagine that in 1901 May Vivienne, in her Travels in Western Australia, wrote of the town: 'At last I saw the lights of Cue. Electric lights in the streets, horses and carts, the shrill whistle of the railway engine, boys calling out the evening papers...all told me that I had emerged from the 'back blocks' and was once more nearing the metropolis.

Day Dawn

5 km to the south of the town is the old settlement of Day Dawn. It is now nothing more than a few ruins suggesting the huge settlement which existed at the turn of the century. There is a photograph upstairs in the Shire council offices of Day Dawn in 1906 which shows it as a thriving settlement. It is an insight into the way mining towns thrive and disappear.

Today all that is left is the Great Fingal Mine Office, a magnificent building which the Murchison Advocate described as 'an object lesson for the Murchison in mason work. The rooms are lofty, windows numerous, and the whole structure is surrounded by a wide and massive verandah.'

The Granites

Another significant Aboriginal rock art site, The Granites (64 km south) is a place of strong cultural significance to the Badimia tribe. The escarpment is about 15 metres high and is spread over several hectares. Allow plenty of time to explore the caves around the rocky outcrop and appreciate the proliferation of old carvings and paintings.

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Where is it?

650 km north-east of Perth

Walga Rock

One of Western Australia's most significant inland Aboriginal sites, Walga Rock (48 km west) is a monolith 5 km around the base and 1.5 km long, the second largest in the state. It is home to the largest gallery of Aboriginal rock paintings in Western Australia, most notably (from a European perspective) a painting of a sailing ship. There has been a great deal of speculation about this painting, especially considering it is located 325 kilometres from the coast.

Wilgie Mia

69 km north of Cue are the National Heritage listed red ochre deposits of Wilgie Mia, the largest and deepest underground Aboriginal ochre mine in Australia. It has all the features found in traditional Aboriginal mines: large open-cut pits, excavated caverns and underground galleries that follow ochre seams.

According to Aboriginal legend in the dreamtime the spirit being Mondong speared a giant kangaroo which leapt over the Weld Range and landed at Widgie Mia. In its death throes the giant kangaroo dug a cave into which its blood spilt. The blood became the red ochre and the bile from the animal's liver became the yellow and green ochre which can also be found in the cave.

Believed to be the world's oldest continuing mining operation. For more than 30,000 years, 50,000 tonnes of red, yellow, white and black ochre has been taken from Wilgie Mia for ceremonies which has been bartered all over Western Australia. Traces of the coloured stone have reportedly been found as far away as north Queensland.

Nearby, jigs have been carved into rocky outcrops and used to fashion tools, including spear tips and serrated cutting blades. Not surprisingly Widgie Mia is regarded as one of the most important Aboriginal sites in Western Australia.

Take old clothes and a torch when you visit the site.

History of Cue

No one knows who discovered gold at Cue but it is likely that the first find was made by Michael John Fitzgerald who, after an Aborigine named Governor had found a 10 oz nugget nearby, decided to prospect in the area. It is claimed that Governor presented the nugget to Fitzgerald remarking 'This fellow slug no good, plenty bit fellow slug over there'. It took Fitzgerald and his friend Edward Heffernan one week to find 260 ozs of gold near what is now the main street of Cue. They then told Tom Cue who travelled to Nannine to register their claim. Ironically it was Cue who gave his name to the town.

The town grew rapidly. Within days 400 miners had poured into the area and within a year the town of Cue was officially proclaimed. At one time the town, and its companion town of Day Dawn, boasted three newspapers - The Murchison Miner, The Murchison Times and The Murchison Advocate.

The miners were hopelessly romantic about their prospects and, although Cue sits in the middle of a desert area, they gave their mines names like Light of Asia, Golden Stream, Lady Mary, Golden Crows Nest, and Cue Victory. The mines continued to operate from 1892 until 1933 when the price of gold finally forced the Light of Asia to close.

In recent years the price of gold has allowed the Golden Crown Mine at Day Dawn to open but its future is dependent on the continuing high price of gold. Apart from this major operation (which employs up to 70 people) there are still dozens of smaller mines in the area. The road from Mount Magnet to Cue is littered with small gold mines. A rough hand painted sign at the side of the road and a pile of tailings in the distance indicates that another small mining operation is trying its luck with the area's seemingly inexhaustible supplies of reef gold.

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