Wagga Wagga ( ; informally called Wagga) is a city in New South Wales, Australia. Straddling the Murrumbidgee River, and with an urban population of 46,913 people, Wagga Wagga is the state's largest inland city, as well as an important agricultural, military, and transport hub of Australia. The city is located midway between the two largest cities in Australia, Sydney and Melbourne, and is the major regional centre for the Riverina and South West Slopes regions.
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 located 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, leading to conflict with the indigenous inhabitants. 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 the seat of a Roman Catholic diocese, with its principal church being St Michael's Cathedral.
The original 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 short 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.
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 Henry Baylis 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.
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.
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 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.