Parkes, New South Wales

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Parkes is a town with a population of approximately 10,500 (as of 2004) located in the Central West of New South Wales, Australia. It is also a Local Government Area (Parkes Shire). It was originally founded in 1853 as the settlement Currajong, named for the abundance of Currajong trees in the local area by the settlers.

Later, the town was renamed to Parkes in honor of Sir Henry Parkes, otherwise known as the "Father of the Federation". (Sir Henry Parkes is recognised in Australia as having played an instrumental role in Australia becoming a unified country.) Parkes attracted significant attention during the gold rush of the 1870s onwards, and even to this day modern mining companies still have sites in the nearby region. A rich variety of farming is conducted in the region immediately surrounding Parkes, although the staple farming is most definitely wheat and wool.

Parkes is located on the Australian transcontinental railway line, and the Newell Highway linking Victoria to Queensland. With the presence of the nearby Parkes Observatory, Parkes has had an important role in the scientific community. In addition to local research conducted at the radio telescope, Parkes scientists have assisted NASA for several missions as a Southern Hemisphere relay and communications station. (The movie The Dish was based somewhat loosely on the role the telescope played during the 1969 Lunar Landing.)

Parkes became a key country location for the railway, serving as a hub for a great deal of passenger and freight transport up until the 1980s. Unfortunately as successive governments reduced the NSW country rail systems, this part of the economy was largely lost to the community. Periodically governments and businesses have raised the topic of an "inland port" whereby Parkes' local air-port would be expanded considerably to serve as a starting point for domestic and international freight destined for areas in the West of NSW. It is yet to be seen whether this option will eventuate for the town.

Parkes typically has a reasonably dry climate, with winter temperatures rarely lower than 0 degrees Celsius overnight. During summer however daytime temperatures can soar to as high as 40 to 45 degrees Celsius, although temperatures in the low to mid-30s can be considered more the norm.

The Parkes Shire Council, which administers not only the town but the surrounding region, roughly 5900 square kilometres, comprising a population of approximately 15,000 (as of 2004).

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