Wagga Wagga (/
The central business district is focused around the commercial and recreational grid bounded by Best and Tarcutta Streets and the Murrumbidgee River and the Sturt Highway. The main shopping street of Wagga is Baylis Street which becomes Fitzmaurice Street at the northern end. The city is in an alluvial valley and much of the city has a problem with urban salinity.
The original inhabitants of the Wagga Wagga region were the Wiradjuri people. In 1829, Charles Sturt became the first European explorer to visit the future site of the city. Squatters arrived soon after. The town, positioned on the site of a ford across the Murrumbidgee, was surveyed and gazetted as a village in 1849 and the town grew quickly after. In 1870, the town was gazetted as a municipality.
During the negotiations leading to the federation of the Australian colonies, Wagga Wagga was a contender for the site of the capital for the new nation. During World War I the town was the starting point for the Kangaroo recruitment march. The Great Depression and the resulting hardship saw Wagga Wagga become the centre of a secession movement for the Riverina region. Wagga Wagga became a garrison town during World War II with the establishment of a military base at Kapooka and Royal Australian Air Force bases at Forest Hill and Uranquinty. After the war, Wagga Wagga was proclaimed as a city in 1946 and new suburbs were developed to the south of the city. In 1982 the city was amalgamated with the neighbouring Kyeamba and Mitchell Shires to form the City of Wagga Wagga local government area.
Wagga Wagga is at the eastern end of the Riverina region where the slopes of the Great Dividing Range flatten and form the Riverina plain. The city straddles the Murrumbidgee River, one of the great rivers of the Murray-Darling Basin, and the city centre is on the southern bank, protected by a levee from potential flooding.
The city sits halfway between the largest cities in Australia, being 452 kilometres southwest of Sydney and 456 kilometres northeast of Melbourne with the Sydney–Melbourne railway line passing through. The Sturt Highway, part of Australia's National Highway network, passes through the city on its way from Adelaide to its junction with the main Sydney–Melbourne route, the Hume Highway, a further 45 kilometres east. This location astride some of the major transport routes in the nation has made Wagga Wagga an important heavy truck depot for a number of companies including Toll Holdings. Wagga Wagga itself is the major regional centre for the Riverina and for much of the South West Slopes regions, providing education, health and other services to a region extending as far as Griffith to the west, Cootamundra to the north and Tumut to the east.
Landform and salinity
Wagga Wagga is upstream from the Riverina plain in the mid-catchment range of the Murrumbidgee River in an alluvial valley confined by low bedrock hills. Much of Wagga Wagga is on heavy clay soils in a large drainage basin with a small catchment discharge point. Groundwater therefore cannot leave easily, leading to Wagga Wagga having a problem with waterlogged soil and soil salination. Urban salination in Wagga Wagga is now the subject of a large multi-pronged approach to prevent further salination and reclaim salt-affected areas.
City and suburbs
The location of Wagga Wagga's Central business district was already well established by the late 1800s and remains focused around the commercial and recreational grid bounded by Best and Tarcutta Streets and the Murrumbidgee River and the Sturt Highway. The main shopping street of Wagga Wagga is Baylis Street which becomes Fitzmaurice Street at the northern end. The Wollundry Lagoon is the water focus of the city centre and has been a key element in the development and separation of the north (older) and south (newer) parts of the city centre. Most residential growth in Wagga Wagga has been on the higher ground to the south of the city centre, with the only residential areas north of the Murrumbidgee being the flood prone suburb of North Wagga Wagga and the university suburb of Estella. Major industrial areas of Wagga Wagga include the northern suburb of Bomen and the eastern suburb of East Wagga Wagga.
Wagga Wagga has a temperate climate with hot dry summers and cool to cold winters. Under the Köppen climate classification, the city has a humid subtropical climate (Cfa), albeit having a semi-arid influence due to its vegetation. At an elevation of 147 metres (482 ft) above sea level, Wagga Wagga has four distinct seasons. Winters can be cold by Australian standards with the mean maximum temperature falling in July to 12.7 °C (54.9 °F) and a mean minimum of 2.8 °C (37.0 °F). The lowest temperature recorded at Wagga was −6.3 °C (20.7 °F) on 21 August 1982.
Fog and heavy frosts are common in the winter while snow is a very rare occurrence. By contrast, summers in Wagga Wagga are warm to hot, with mean maximum temperatures ranging between 29 and 32 °C (84 and 90 °F). The hottest temperature on record is 45.2 °C (113.4 °F) on 7 February 2009. Relative humidity is low in the summer months with a 3 pm average of around 30%. Wagga Wagga has 124.3 clear days annually.
In 2009 the city recorded anomalous maximum of 25.03 °C (77.05 °F), which was 2.33 °C (4.19 °F) above the country's average of 22.7 °C (72.9 °F) and the highest anomalous maximum in Australia for 2009. This proceeded the Early 2009 southeastern Australia heat wave, in which Wagga Wagga recorded 13 Consecutive days over 37.8 °C (100.0 °F) as well as its highest maximum temperature ever recorded.
Wagga Wagga has a mean annual rainfall of 575.3 millimetres (22.65 in) per year. This rainfall is distributed fairly equally over the 12 months. On 8 March 2010, Wagga Wagga Airport recorded 110.2 millimetres (4.34 in) of rain, breaking the previous all-time record of 104.1 millimetres (4.10 in) set on 16 March 1966, with 127 millimetres (5.0 in) of rain recorded at Gurwood Street in the city's CBD. In December 2010, the city recorded its wettest year on record and the first yearly rainfall recording of 1,000 millimetres (39 in).
|Climate data for Wagga Wagga|
|Record high °C (°F)||44.8
|Average high °C (°F)||31.7
|Average low °C (°F)||16.3
|Record low °C (°F)||3.4
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||40.5
|Average precipitation days||5.4||5.3||5.6||6.8||9.2||11.3||13.6||13.0||10.5||9.4||7.5||6.3||103.9|
|Average afternoon relative humidity (%)||29||33||35||43||56||64||65||59||54||46||36||30||46|
|Mean daily sunshine hours||10.8||10.1||9.3||8.2||6.3||4.6||4.8||6.4||7.6||9.2||9.7||10.4||8.1|
|Source #1: |
|Source #2: |
The Aboriginal inhabitants of the Wagga Wagga region were the Wiradjuri people and the term "Wagga" and derivatives of that word in the Wiradjuri aboriginal language is thought to mean crow. To create the plural, the Wiradjuri repeat a word, thus 'Wagga Wagga' translates to 'the place of many crows'. This has been recognised in the Latin name of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wagga Wagga as Dioecesis Corvopolitana ("corvus" being the Latin word for crow). Other translations render the word 'wagga' as "reeling (a sick man or a dizzy man)" and "to dance, slide or grind".
European exploration of the future site of Wagga Wagga began in 1829 with the arrival of Captain Charles Sturt during his expedition along the Murrumbidgee River. Settlers arrived shortly thereafter with Charles Tompson establishing the Eunonyhareenyha 'run' on the north bank of the river in 1832, and then in soon after George Best establishing the Wagga Wagga 'run' on the south bank. Other settlers followed, with all of them initially squatting on the land illegally but by 1836 the colonial government regulated the tenure of land and established a licensing scheme. Within a few years settlers numbers increased greatly and before 1850 a local bench of magistrates and a place for holding petty sessions was established. The beginnings of a village formed near the ford used by most traffic passing through the area and included a crude blacksmith's shop, a hotel, and a post office. By 1849 the town was marked out by surveyor Thomas Scott Townsend and formally gazetted as a village.
Wagga Wagga grew quickly, reaching a population of 627 in 1861 and during that decade a number of hotels and stores opened, as well as professional services in the form of banks, solicitors, doctors and dentists. The Wagga Wagga Advertiser is still published today as The Daily Advertiser and commenced in 1868. Until the 1860s most goods were transported to markets by bullock wagon. For a short time, the arrival of faster, cheaper and more reliable riverboats allowed goods to be transported more easily to export markets. The riverboat era ended when the New South Wales government extended the railway line to North Wagga Wagga in 1878 and across the river to Wagga Wagga itself in 1881.
On 15 March 1870, Wagga Wagga was incorporated as a municipality and George Forsyth was chosen as the first Mayor of Wagga Wagga. Gas lighting was installed throughout the streets of Wagga Wagga in 1881, although once again North Wagga Wagga was neglected. By 1885, a town waterworks and reservoir was established although water quality remained a problem. Poor sanitation caused a horrific stench in the town and was blamed for a large increase in infectious diseases such as typhoid fever in the 1890s and early 1900s. In 1908 the Council approved a sewerage scheme and by 1914 most of the main streets were sewered. A free public library was opened in 1875 and the Council began to establish parklands such as Bolton Park and the Town Hall Gardens.
In September 1859 local residents formed a committee for the construction of a pile bridge over the Murrumbidgee River. After the New South Wales Government refused to support this type of bridge the committee decided to finance it themselves. The bridge was completed in October 1862 and opened on 27 October at just over 91 metres long and 7 metres wide. In 1884 the New South Wales Government purchased the bridge and it was demolished in 1895. In 1895 a truss bridge called the Hampden Bridge, was built across the Murrumbidgee River at Wagga. The bridge served the Wagga Wagga community for over 100 years until 16 August 2006 when it was closed and fenced off to the public due to the bridge being declared a safety risk after one of the trusses failed. In 2014 the Hampden Bridge was demolished.
With its increasing prosperity and population, Wagga Wagga and the surrounding district became a place of interest to several infamous bushrangers. The Wagga police magistrate was bailed up by Mad Dog Morgan in 1863. Captain Moonlite and his band arrived in the district on 15 November 1879 and held up 39 people at Wantabadgery Station. Moonlite and his gang escaped a police pursuit only to be captured at another nearby property when police from the neighbouring townships of Gundagai and Adelong arrived.
Along with most of the Riverina region, the majority of Wagga Wagga residents supported the federation of the Australian colonies, in large part due to the prospect of free trade across colonial borders. In 1898, a group of residents promoted Wagga Wagga for consideration as the site of the future national capital due to its location equidistant from Sydney and Melbourne and its ample water supply. Despite the bid's lack of success, in the 1899 referendum Wagga Wagga residents voted strongly in favour of federation.
During World War I the town was the starting point of the "Kangaroo March", one of a series of snowball marches conducted in New South Wales during the war where groups of recruits would march toward Sydney and appeal to men in the towns along the route to join them and enlist in the Australian Imperial Force. 88 recruits left Wagga Wagga on 1 December 1915, farewelled by a large crowd and to the accompaniment of a band. The marchers included John Ryan, who later won the Victoria Cross for his actions in the Battle of the Hindenburg Line in 1918. The march finished at Campbelltown with over 220 recruits.
After the war some of the area around Wagga Wagga was designated for settlement by returned soldiers, who faced insurmountable difficulties due to poor and unwatered land, lack of farming experience and lack of access to markets. Many walked off the land after years of backbreaking work. Residential growth continued with a population in 1921 of 11,631. Much of this residential growth was housed in the higher ground to the south, extending to the south of the railway tracks. A suburb consisting of tents and crude huts, known as "Tent Town", developed along the river providing housing for the poorer residents of Wagga Wagga. In 1922, electricity was provided for the town, with hydro-electric power available from Burrinjuck Dam from 1928.
Hardship as a result of the Great Depression, and the election of Jack Lang of the Labor party as Premier of New South Wales, sparked the formation of the "Riverina Movement". Throughout the Riverina in early 1931, a series of rallies were organised by the movement, culminating in a great meeting in Wagga Wagga on 28 February 1931. The meeting called on the State and Federal governments to alleviate the concerns of producers in the district or hold a referendum to determine if the Riverina should secede. The movement petered out following the dismissal of Lang in 1932 and the recovery of the regional economy.
The outbreak of World War II saw Royal Australian Air Force bases established at Forest Hill in 1940 and Uranquinty in 1941. A major Australian Army camp was constructed at Kapooka in 1942 and one year later there were 8,000 troops in training there with Wagga taking on the characteristics of a garrison town.
After the war, Wagga Wagga grew steadily and was proclaimed a city on 17 April 1946. Suburbs such as Turvey Park and Kooringal were developed to the south of the city and in the 1960s, residential growth expanded to cover areas such as Tolland and Lake Albert. The main commercial district also moved south to the Baylis Street end with the development of the Sturt Mall in 1979. The City Council developed a series of industrial areas including areas for service and general industries, and agricultural processing and noxious industries were established in a new industrial estate in Bomen.
In the 1950s the defence bases in Wagga Wagga again became an important part of the city. The Army camp at Kapooka was reopened as a recruit training centre from 1951, a role it maintains to this day. RAAF Base Wagga at Forest Hill also expanded, with training of defence force aircraft technicians there from 1969. After a series of major floods in the early 1950s, the City Council protected the city area on the south flood plain through construction of a levee, completed in 1962. The levee was designed to provide protection from floods at levels expected once every one hundred years. North Wagga Wagga was initially excluded from protection however by 1982 another levee was constructed to protect the village, although at a lower standard.
In 1971, following pressure from the Wagga Wagga community for a university, the teachers' college established in 1947 became the Riverina College of Advanced Education and was relocated to a site adjacent to the Wagga Agricultural College, with which it amalgamated in 1975. In 1989, the College amalgamated with the College of Advanced Education at Bathurst to become Charles Sturt University. In 1981, the New South Wales government forced the amalgamation of Wagga Wagga City Council with neighbouring Kyeamba Shire and Mitchell Shire to form the new City of Wagga Wagga local government area, containing 4,886 square kilometres.
Wagga Wagga has a number of heritage-listed sites, including:
- Botanic Gardens Site (BGS), Baden Powell Drive: Mobile Cook's Galley, Museum of the Riverina
- Main Southern railway: Wagga Wagga railway station 
The Wagga Wagga City Flag was designed by Mr H Ellis Tomlinson, MA, FHS and adopted in 1965. Currently, Wagga Wagga City Council holds the copyright to Tomlinson's design. The flag is officially square. The upper quarter of it contains eight stalks of wheat positioned so as to form two capital letters W on a vert (green) field. The lower quarter of the upper half of the flag contains a wavy blue line on gold (yellow) representing the river winding through the wheat fields. The lower half of the flag contains the head of a ram positioned centrally on a vert (green) field.
Wagga Wagga is the major city of the Riverina and the largest inland city in New South Wales. As at June 2015 the urban area of Wagga Wagga was home to an estimated population of 55,820 having grown, on average, 0.7 percent year-on-year during the previous five years. Much of this growth is attributable to the "sponge city" phenomenon as Wagga Wagga attracts residents from smaller towns in the region such as Urana. Other factors include Wagga's role as a regional centre and its hosting of major defence establishments and a Charles Sturt University campus.
According to the 2016 census of Population, there were 54,411 people in the Wagga Wagga Urban Area.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people made up 5.9% of the population.
- 84.1% of people were born in Australia. The next most common countries of birth were England 1.3%, India 1.2%, Philippines 0.7%, New Zealand 0.7% and China 0.5%.
- 87.5% of people spoke only English at home. Other languages spoken at home included Malayalam 0.7%, Arabic 0.5%, Mandarin 0.5%, Tagalog 0.3% and Filipino 0.3%.
- The most common responses for religion were Catholic 31.2%, No Religion 22.1% and Anglican 19.3%.
Wagga Wagga falls within the boundary of the Anglican Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn. Anglican parishes include St John's, Wagga Wagga (Church St); St Paul's, Turvey Park (Fernleigh Rd); St Alban's, Kooringal (Lake Albert Rd); Community of the Redeemer, Ashmont (Blakemore Ave).
Wagga Wagga is the seat of a Roman Catholic diocese, with its principal church being St Michael's Cathedral.
Wagga attracts people from all over the Riverina and southwestern New South Wales to its shopping facilities. It is the major support city for over 200,000 people who live across the region.
Wagga's shopping centres include two notable centres of metropolitan standards, Wagga Wagga Marketplace and Sturt Mall in the central business district, and suburban shopping centres such as the South City Shopping Centre in Glenfield Park, the Lake Village Shopping Centre, Lake Albert, the Tolland Shopping Centre and Kooringal Mall in Kooringal. Wagga has a large Home Base located on the Sturt Highway. Wagga's central business district, with both Baylis and Fitzmaurice Streets and other surrounding streets, offers hundreds of speciality retailers including national chains such as Big W, Myer and Target Country. The dairy company Fonterra (Formerly Murrumbidgee Dairy Products), is based on the Sturt Highway which is a supplier of dairy products in the Riverina, Other major industries include Cargill and Heinz which are in the suburb of Bomen.
The Australian Army base at Kapooka includes the Army Recruit Training Centre, where general enlistment members of the Australian Army undertake their initial training. The barracks at Kapooka are named after World War II military commander Sir Thomas Blamey, born at Lake Albert Wagga Wagga and Australia's only Field Marshal. Following recruit training, soldiers move on to trade specific training at training establishments throughout Australia. The soldiers club at Kapooka is named for John Hurst Edmondson, Australia's first Victoria Cross winner in World War II, who was born in Wagga Wagga.
There is a separate Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base at Forest Hill (RAAF Base Wagga), which is the administration and logistics training base for Air Force personnel and the tri-service (RAN/Army/RAAF) electronic (White hander) and aircraft (Black hander) trades school. Some Royal Australian Navy Aircraft Technicians assigned to the naval air station HMAS Albatross are based at RAAF Base Wagga as an Aircraft Maintenance and Flight Trials Unit (AMAFTU). As of 2008, No 1 Recruit Training Unit (1RTU) has moved from RAAF Edinburgh to RAAF Wagga Wagga. RAAF Base Wagga is also the home of the Wagga Wagga RAAF Museum.
The sole provider of higher education in Wagga Wagga is the local campus of the multi-campus Charles Sturt University, located on the outskirts of the suburb of Estella. The university was established on 1 July 1989 following the enactment of The Charles Sturt University Act, 1989 and involved the merger of several existing separately-administered Colleges of Advanced Education including the Riverina College of Advanced Education in Wagga Wagga. At the time of its establishment it became the ninth university in the state and its inaugural vice-chancellor was C.D. Blake AO who at the time was the principal of the Riverina College.
The Riverina Institute, a collection of TAFE institute campuses has its headquarters in Wagga Wagga and Wagga is home to three campuses. The Primary Industries Centre, at North Wagga Wagga is set on 250 hectares and runs courses on agriculture and horticulture. The National Aerospace Training Centre of Excellence, at RAAF Base Wagga provides training support to the Australian Defence Force aerospace traineeship program. The commercial contract with the ADF is the largest technical training contract in Australia. In addition Wagga Wagga is home to eight secondary schools and 22 primary schools.
Local government for the city is provided by the Wagga Wagga City Council. As well as Wagga Wagga itself the City Council area includes the outlying towns of Tarcutta, Ladysmith, Mangoplah, Collingullie and Uranquinty covering an area of 4,824 km². The local government area was formed as a result of the amalgamation of the City of Wagga Wagga with the Mitchell and Kyeamba Shires in 1981. The council itself consists of 11 councillors elected for a four-year term and from these a mayor and deputy mayor are elected each year by the council.
Wagga Wagga is the largest city in the Australian House of Representatives electorate of Riverina, currently represented by Michael McCormack of the National Party. At the state level, the city is represented in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly by , Independent member for the Electoral district of Wagga Wagga.
Busabout Wagga Wagga provides bus services from most Wagga Wagga suburbs to the CBD from Mondays to Saturdays with no services on Sunday or public holidays.
Allen's Coaches of Coolamon and Junee Buses provide weekday connections to Coolamon (routes 1W, 2W and 3W) and Junee (routes 21-25) respectively.
Wagga Radio Cabs run taxis 24/7 in the city with taxi ranks at Station Place, Forsyth Street, Gurwood Street, Wagga Wagga Base Hospital and Kooringal Mall.
Baylis Street in the CBD was a thoroughfare for the Olympic Highway until the Gobbagombalin Bridge (referred to locally as the Gobba Bridge and is believed to be the longest continuous-span viaduct in New South Wales) about 6 km northwest of the CBD was opened on 26 July 1997. The Sturt Highway passes through the centre of Wagga Wagga.
Wagga Wagga Airport at Forest Hill has scheduled daily flights to Sydney and Melbourne operated by two carriers, Regional Express and QantasLink bringing approximately 210,000 passengers through the region every year. Coupled with Rex’s major maintenance base and the Australian Airline Pilot Academy (AAPA), the Airport is one of the busiest in regional Australia. The Airport itself is owned by the Royal Australian Air Force and the civil side is leased by the Wagga Wagga City Council. The sealed runway can cater for aircraft up to Boeing 737-300 and Airbus A321.
Wagga's location approximately midway between Melbourne and Sydney on the "Barassi Line" contributes to high levels of participation in Rugby league, Rugby union and Australian rules football in the town. Other popular sports in Wagga include soccer, cricket, tennis, and lawn bowls.
The local rugby league teams play in the Group 9 Rugby League competition and include , South City and . The Group 9 grand final is a major sport event in Wagga Wagga. Rugby union teams include CSU Reddies, Wagga Agricultural College, Wagga City and Wagga Waratahs in the . Australian rules football clubs in Wagga include Collingullie-Glenfield Park, Mangoplah-Cookardinia United-Eastlakes, Turvey Park and Wagga Tigers in the Riverina Football League and East Wagga-Kooringal, North Wagga and Rivcoll(CSU) in the Farrer Football League. Wagga soccer teams include Henwood Park, Wagga United, Tolland and Lake Albert, with the first grade competition for men being the Pascoe Cup and for women the Leonard Cup. The , said to be Australia's second oldest thoroughbred horse race, is held in the first week of May.
The "Wagga Effect" is a term that has been used frequently in the Australian media to describe the disproportionately large number of elite sportsmen and women that originate from the city. It is speculated that the phenomenon may arise in rural areas where the population is large enough to sustain the presence of a large number of sporting codes, but small enough to ensure that talented individuals are exposed to adult-level competition at an earlier age.
Notable sportspeople from Wagga include:
- Australian rules football – Wayne Carey, Paul Hawke, Paul Kelly, Bill Mohr, Cameron Mooney, John Pitura, Adam Schneider, and Matt Suckling
- Cricket – Geoff Lawson, Michael Slater, and Mark Taylor
- Golf – US PGA Championship winner Steve Elkington
- Horse racing – jockey Scobie Breasley
- Rugby league – Greg Brentnall, Ben Cross, Marc Glanville, Chris Mortimer, Peter Mortimer, Steve Mortimer, Jamie Soward, and Peter Sterling
- Rugby union – Nathan Hines and Nathan Sharpe
- Rugby sevens - Alicia Quirk
- Soccer – Australia women's national soccer team representative Sally Shipard
- Tennis – Tony Roche, 1966 French Open champion, and later a coach, is from Tarcutta near Wagga
- Triathlon – Brad Kahlefeldt, Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist, Olympian, and World Champion
5 o'clock wave
The 5 o'clock wave is a fictional theory on the reasons for Wagga Wagga's sporting success. According to the local urban myth, at precisely 5 o'clock arrives a giant wave which flushes a secret nutrient into the Murrumbidgee River following the release of water from the Blowering and Burrinjuck Dams. The wave is said to continue down river at high speed, and indeed visitors are told it is so powerful that surfers can ride it along the meandering river until it reaches the town of Narrandera.
Recreation and culture
The Murrumbidgee River at Wagga Wagga forms into a large sandy beach, and is a popular location for swimming, picnics and barbecues during the warmer months. Between 1977 and 1995 the beach played host to the Gumi Races, where people were encouraged to make rafts from inner tubing and sabotage their competition by throwing rotten eggs and flour at them. Visitors and local residents still take every opportunity[editorializing] during the warmer months to float down the river from the area known as "The Rocks" some 600 metres upstream from the main beach area.
Wollundry Lagoon, Lake Albert and parks provide recreational facilities. Sporting facilities include the Oasis Regional Aquatic Centre, with Australia's only wave ball. Wagga Wagga Civic Theatre and the Forum 6 Cinemas provide entertainment venues. The Wagga Wagga Botanic Gardens are home to a music bowl, a small zoo with a walk through aviary, a tree chapel, Willans Hill Model Railway and a camellia garden. Located on the banks of the Wollundry lagoon and officially opened in 1927, the Victory Memorial Gardens were established amidst some controversy as a tribute to those who fought and died in World War I.
The main cultural precinct for Wagga Wagga can be found in central Wagga Wagga, at the Wagga Wagga Civic Centre on the banks of Wollundry Lagoon. The precinct includes the Wagga Wagga Civic Theatre, Museum of the Riverina, Wagga Wagga Regional Art Gallery and Wagga Wagga City Library.
The Wagga Wagga Civic Theatre was officially opened in 1963 at a cost of ₤165,000. During its design and construction and again after opening the theatre was the subject of severe criticism. Critics lamented the destruction of rose gardens removed to allow construction, the size of the orchestra pit, the amount of seating (497 seats) as well as the design of the feature mural. A considerable refurbishment was carried out in the 1990s and now the theatre is regarded as one of the best in regional Australia, playing host to national and international touring acts.
The Wagga Wagga Regional Art Gallery hosts local collections and travelling exhibitions and has space for an Artist in residence. The centrepiece of the collection is the National Art Glass Gallery, a nationally significant collection of studio art glass hosted in a separate, specially designed gallery. The collection was first established by the former director of the Wagga Wagga Regional Art Gallery, Judy Le Lievre in response to a request by the Australia Council for regional galleries to develop a specialised collection to avoid duplication and competition. The collection consists of around 400 works making it the largest studio glass collection in Australia.
The Museum of the Riverina was established in 1967 by the Wagga Wagga and District Historical Society. Wagga Wagga City Council took over its operations in the late 1990s and it now operates at two sites. The Historic Council Chambers site on the corner of Baylis and Morrow streets in central Wagga, hosts travelling exhibitions and the main site at the Botanic Gardens is home to the main collection including the Wagga Wagga Sporting Hall of Fame. The museum also has an important collection of memorabilia about the Tichborne Case, including a set of four rare plaster figurines depicting characters from the trial, a complete set of hard-bound court transcripts and a monumental painting entitled The Tichborne Trial painted in 1874 by Nathan Hughes, which hangs in the city's council chambers.
The Wagga Wagga Jazz Festival was established in 1995 and has featured a range of Australian and international musicians. Established in 1976 as the Riverina Trucking Company and renamed in 1983, the Riverina Theatre Company is one of Australia's longest running regional theatre companies and runs a full program of events each year at the Riverina Playhouse, which is located on the banks of the Murrumbidgee River and owned by Charles Sturt University.
Notable artists and performers from Wagga Wagga include poet Dame Mary Gilmore, who is featured on the Australian 10 dollar note and veteran actor Bill Kerr. Former Yellow Wiggle, Sam Moran, is from Wagga Wagga, having replaced the original Yellow Wiggle, Greg Page, in November 2006. The fictional creation of satirist Barry Humphries, Dame Edna Everage was said to have been born in Wagga Wagga.
Frank Ottenson wrote a song Wagga Wagga about the city in 1942, calling it a 'Riverina paradise’. It was recorded by Tom Davidson and his Orchestra.
Wagga has strong cultural ties with three international sister cities which form part of a twinning program. Those sister cities are Leavenworth, Kansas in the United States, which was established in 1962; Nördlingen in Germany, established in 1967; and Kunming in China, mutually established in 1988.
Wagga has captured the interest of writers, novelists and songwriters over the years. Specifically the city's international notoriety surrounding Arthur Orton and the Tichborne Case attracted a visit from Mark Twain when he visited Australia in the 1890s. In addition Wagga has been home to a number of famous Australian writers, including Frank Moorhouse who worked as a journalist on the city's daily newspaper, and the poets Mary Gilmore and Barcroft Boake.
In other cases the town's name has been directly referred to as part of the content of songs and novels. For example, the song Don't call Wagga Wagga Wagga, written by Australian country music artists Greg Champion and Jim Haynes, was a minor hit on the Australian country charts and is a light-hearted take on the habit of Australians to refer to double named towns by one name only. Other examples include the Harry Potter series of fantasy novels, where the character Gilderoy Lockhart claimed to have defeated the "Wagga Wagga Werewolf", the Bryce Courtenay book The Power of One, where the main character Peekay is said to have a cousin Lenny from Wagga Wagga Australia, the Bryce Courtenay book Jessica has several passages that take place in Wagga Wagga, including the judgement of Billy Simple, and the Robert G. Barrett novel, "Mud Crab Boogie" which is partially set in Wagga Wagga.
As a regional centre for the Riverina and South West Slopes, Wagga Wagga is home to a number of regional media outlets. Both WIN Television and Prime7 air half-hour local news programs on weeknights. The bulletins are presented from studios in Wollongong and Canberra respectively with reporters and camera crews for both services based in newsrooms in the city. Since 2006, WIN's weeknight bulletin has also included coverage of the Griffith area. In addition, Southern Cross Nine runs a small sales office and airs short local news updates from its Canberra studios throughout the day. Since 2017, Southern Cross Nine's new hour long weeknight bulletin from Wagga Wagga is Nine News Riverina.
The city receives the ABC's four free-to-air national television channels on (ABC TV, ABC Comedy, ABC KIDS, ABC Me and ABC News, SBS's four television channels (SBS TV, SBS Viceland, Food Network, and NITV), the commercial networks' main channels (Seven Network from Prime7, Nine Network from Southern Cross Nine and Network Ten from WIN Television) and the commercial networks' multi channels (7Two and 7mate from Prime7, 9Go!, 9Gem and 9Life from Southern Cross Nine and One and Eleven from WIN Television).
Local radio stations broadcasting from Wagga Wagga include ABC Riverina, AM radio commercial station Triple M Riverina 1152), FM radio commercial station Hit93.1 Riverina), and a rebroadcast from radio reading service Radio 1RPH. Other local stations include Christian radio station Life FM and the community station 2AAA FM. The ABC's national stations ABC Radio National, ABC Classic FM, ABC NewsRadio and Triple J and the multicultural network SBS Radio are broadcast into Wagga Wagga.
The Daily Advertiser, published Monday to Friday and its sister publication, the Weekend Advertiser, service Wagga and much of the surrounding region. The newspaper was established by two wealthy local pastoralists, Auber George Jones and Thomas Darlow and first printed on 10 December 1868 by editor Frank Hutchison, an Oxford graduate. Originally printed bi-weekly, by 1880 it was tri-weekly and finally became 'daily' on 31 December 1910. In 1962 the newspaper reduced in size from a broadsheet to a tabloid format. The Riverina Leader, the local free community newspaper was launched in May 1979.
- Sharna Burgess (Dancing With The Stars professional dancer)
- Wayne Carey AFL (North Melbourne FC and 2x Permiership player)
- Dame Edna Everage (Satirical figure)
- Marc Glanville (Rugby league player)
- Paul Kelly (Former Australian rules footballer, Brownlow Medal winner and captain of the Sydney Swans for ten seasons)
- Bill Kerr (Australian actor and co-star of the BBC radio comedy Hancock's Half Hour)
- Nina Las Vegas (DJ)
- Geoff Lawson (Cricketer)
- Lex Marinos (Actor)
- Michael McCormack (Deputy Prime Minister)
- Sam Moran (former member of the children's musical group The Wiggles)
- William Monks (Architect)
- Chris Mortimer (Rugby league player)
- Peter Mortimer (Rugby league player)
- Steve Mortimer (Rugby league player)
- Arthur Orton (Imposter of the late 19th century)
- Alicia Quirk (Australian Women's Rugby sevens player and 2016 Summer Olympics gold medal winner)
- Tony Roche (1966 French Open tennis champion)
- Nathan Sharpe (Rugby union player)
- Michael Slater (Cricketer)
- Jamie Soward (Rugby League player)
- Peter Sterling (Rugby League player and TV commentator)
- Mark Taylor (Australian cricket captain)
- The Bee Gees – who wrote "Morning of My Life" at the Wagga Police Boys Club
- Chiko Roll – first sold in 1951 at the Wagga Wagga show
- Eric Weissel Oval
- Eurythmics – who formed in Wagga Wagga
- HMAS Wagga
- List of reduplicated Australian place names
- List of people from Wagga Wagga
- List of Wagga Wagga suburbs and localities
- Mortimer family
- Murrumbidgee Co-operative Milling
- Pulletop bushfire
- Wagga Wagga War Cemetery
- Wagga Wagga Leagues Club
- Yazidis in Australia
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