Parachilna, Flinders Ranges
The tiny township of Parachilna in the far north of South Australia is not strictly in the ranges. It is located about 8 kilometres west of Parachilna Gorge. This small community has never been huge with a population rarely exceeding 20 over the years. It was first surveyed in 1863 and was at its peak during the time that the nearby copper mine at Blinman was operational.
A Special Place
Parachilna has a special place in my life. In 1969 I was appointed as Head Teacher of the tiny Parachilna Rural School there. It was my first teaching appointment and a very rugged introduction to the profession. The school had a total enrolment of 12 students. During my two year appointment the total number never exceeded 14 students, and at one stage I had the grand sum of 4 – all from one family. I filled the role not only of teacher, but also that of Principal, cleaner, gardener, building maintenance officer, nurse, banker and many other menial but essential positions. I even had to be the presiding officer for a Federal Election, the school building being the only suitable polling booth for some 40km in any direction.
Today the school is closed and is used as a backpacker hostel. There are several houses in the little township and one hotel, the oddly named Prairie Hotel. When I first moved to Parachilna the hotel was my home for several months. There was no teacher housing provided because previous teachers had boarded at one of the nearby cattle stations and had provided the means to transport several students to the school each day. Eventually the Education Department, at my insistence, provided me with a new 8 metre long caravan to live in, complete with shower, toilet and washing machine. I still had to rely on power from the hotel’s generator.
In the late 1960s the Flinders Ranges as a tourist destination was just in its infancy. Today the area caters for hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. In those early days it was only a few thousand. A few years ago we visited both nearby Blinman and Parachilna for the first time in over 20 years. We were amazed at the changes that had occured, especially to the hotel. The vastly refurbished hotel now attracts tourists worldwide and boasts that it is Australia’s most awarded outback hotel. Check out its website for more.