Woolitji House is a historical building in Maclean, built for the Bank of New South Wales in 1882, and later bought by the Woolitji Co-op.
The front door of the building marked a demarcation line in Maclean where Aboriginal people could not go passed after 6pm.
Following a referendum in 1967 that recognised Aboriginal people as citizens, the Woolitji Co-op was formed to purchase the building and effectively own the curfew line.
The building is no longer owned by the Woolitji Co-op , which is now located in Ulmarra, between Maclean and Grafton.
The building used to be occupied by a tea house when the talking trail was operating, which enabled general entry to look at the building on the inside. It is now occupied by a business not as suited to walk-in visits, so viewing it is only from the outside.
Maclean Talking Trail
Woolitji House was part of the Maclean talking trail, the brown sign is there as part of the talking trail. Headphones were borrowed and audio played as you walked the trail. Below is what was included in the talking trail audio.
Woolitji House was originally the second incarnation of the Maclean’s Bank of New South Wales. The previous premises had been constructed in 1877 in Wharf Street but by 1880 it was apparent that a re‐location was necessary due to the ongoing development of the business area further away in lower River Street.
In 1881 construction began on the new premises by Mr William Kinnear. The bank opened for business the following year.
Whilst being plain in design the building does feature a wonderful second story balcony with cast-iron balustrading and lattice in‐fills. The main construction is brick with cement rendering.
The decision to build closer to the river on lower ground was to plague the bank’s manager on more than one occasion. During the third of four floods in 1890, the bank was inundated with one and a half metres of water.
In 1976 the building was purchased by the Woolitji Cooperative and was renamed Woolitji House. The name Woolitji is a Yaegl word which translates as “cut cedar”.
Greetings. My names is Colin Clague and I’m secretary of Woolitji Cooperative Ltd. Woolitji Cooperative was formed in 1976 for the explicit purpose of purchasing the building we now call Woolitji House when it came on the market.
From 1904 onwards the Yaegl people were progressively relocated from the villages and wherever else they lived at that time to Ulugundahi Island which became the aboriginal reserve.
As the community grew approximate to Maclean on Ulugundahi they would come to town for their rations and whatever, a curfew was introduced that prohibited the members of the aboriginal community from going up the main street of Maclean after 6pm in the evening and the point beyond which the were prohibited from going was a sort of imaginary line in line with the front door of the Bank of NSW, so that was one thing that absolutely delighted my wife and the other members of the aboriginal community involved in the acquisition of what we call Woolitji House was that they now owned the curfew point.Colin Clague, Maclean Talking Trail Audio
To get there:
From the Pacific Hwy, take the Yamba Rd exit for Maclean. Turn left (west along the Clarence River) and from the brown sign for Tourist Drive 22, follow Yamba Rd for 5km. Woolitji House is on the left, the brown sign is across the road from it.
Hours: Anytime, no access inside
Wheelchair accessible: Yes, with assistance