Andamooka is located approximately 600 km north of Adelaide and is the largest town administered by the Outback Communities Authority. It hosts a rich assembly of nationalities that live and work together in an environment that outsiders may consider harsh and resembling a ‘moonscape'. The community is represented locally by the Andamooka Progress and Opal Miners Association (APOMA) . The OCA supports APOMA and the community through the Andamooka Community Affairs Resourcing and Management Agreement (2016-17)
In 1872 a pastoral lease was taken out for Andamooka Station, 58 years later in 1930 two boundary riders; Sam Brookes and Roy Shepperd found opal at the site now known as Treloars Hill. The story goes that they were caught in a thunderstorm and whilst sheltering under a tree a pretty coloured rock caught their eye. The rock was taken back and later identified as being opal. They attempted to keep the find a secret but the word did get out and a rush of miners then headed for Andamooka in the 1930's.
Whilst the lure of opal did entice the first settlers to Andamooka some others came for more complex reasons. It seems the "free"' and largely ungoverned lifestyle of this outback town held an attraction for many people who were leaving Europe after experiencing the horrors and constrictions of war.
Early living conditions during the Depression years were to say the least, difficult but certainly practical, with miners and dealers making use of local materials in the construction of their early semi-dugout homes, typified by the Heritage Listed Cottages in the Historical Reserve.
This mix of reasons helped to create a multi-cultural environment that gives Andamooka a distinctively unique feel even to this day. While conditions have improved over the years, Andamooka has never lost its unique character or Characters.
One of the largest and most famous opal stones is the Andamooka Opal, also known as the ‘Queen's Opal'. In 1954, The Andamooka Opal was cut and polished by John Altmann of Sydney to a weight of 203 carats. It displays a magnificent array of reds, blues, and greens and was set with diamonds into an 18-karat palladium choker necklace. This one-of-a-kind ensemble was presented to Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her first official state visit to Australia, a gift truly fit for a queen! Today, the Andamooka Opal and its attendant pieces form part of Queen Elizabeth II's personal crown jewels.
Historical Character - Bill McDougall
Before his death, Bill McDougall, owner of Bill's Pub, raised funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). For a small donation, visitors were treated to a glass of Port (‘plonk' as Bill referred to it) and stories of old. Bill raised in excess of $240,000 for the RFDS and is remembered with much admiration and respect by locals and those who passed his way over the years and recall visiting Bill at his Ettomogah Pub.