A Queen Break At Broken Heel Will Be Anything But A Drag


If you search the phrase ‘Broken Heel’ in Google, it turns out that people also ask, “How long does it take for a broken heel to heal?” Plus “How do you fix a broken heel?”

Someone over at Google needs to update their search terms, because far from being something that needs ‘fixing’ or ‘healing’ Broken Heel needs embracing.

And that’s exactly what we’ve done at New Matilda, signing up as a media partner for what promises to be the mother of all festivals. Or more accurately the ‘Queen of all festivals’.

You might not have heard of it yet – Broken Heel is only in it’s fourth year – but you will soon enough. The town of Broken Hill in the far west of NSW hosts the event every year, a celebration of all things ‘drag queens’, springing from The Hill’s role in the iconic ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’, which premiered in 1994, and forever changed the landscape – and the culture – of the otherwise rugged Australian mining town.

Broken Hill is staged over three nights – September 7, 8 and 9 – and this year’s lead artist is none other than Christine Anu. On the drag front, the festival features such icons as Philmah Bocks and Art Simone – Australia’s best known award-winning drag duo from Melbourne – to local legends like Shelita Buffet and Christina Knees-Up, the geniuses behind the weekly ‘Drag Bingo’ at the Palace Hotel, the venue that is the focus of the festival (and was featured in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert).

The Palace Hotel, the centre of the Broken Heel Festival in Broken Hill, which celebrates all things drag.

You can read about all of the artists here. And you can find out more about the program for the festival, plus everything you want to know here.

Our good friends at Sparkke are also sponsors of the event, so you’ll be able to enjoy a can of ‘Say I Do’ white wine bubbles at the festival.

Tickets are still available for the festival, although the event is selling out fast. ’The Hill’, as the town is known, also isn’t the easiest place to get to (particularly not by air… Rex Airlines gouges the absolute daylights out of you on flights) but it’s definitely worth a trip if you have the means, and the town and region has plenty to keep you occupied for a week or so if you decide to stay a little longer.


If you’re going…

Pro tip: There’s an awful lot to see and do in the Far West of NSW, particularly if you’re a fan of the arts – Broken Hill has a very, very vibrant arts community. 

If you’re flying or training it in – yes, remarkably, the NSW Government has yet to access the country train service to Broken Hill – hire yourself a car so you can check out Wilcannia and White Cliffs – two towns within a relatively easy (few hours) drive from The Hill. Both are ridiculously interesting, Wilcannia for its historic buildings and Aboriginal culture and White Cliffs for its opal mining and dug out houses.

Menindee Lakes is worth a camp for at least a few days – it’s a stunning oasis in an otherwise dry part of the country. And Mutawintji National Park – under the stewardship of the Traditional Owners – is a stunning location, with some of the most striking Aboriginal rock art anywhere in the country.

The stunning Mutawintji National Park, worth a visit if you’re in the Far West of NSW. (IMAGE: Doug Beckers, Flickr)

Silverton is an easy day trip from Broken Hill – it’s one of the stranger but more interesting small towns you’ll visit in the region, and features some of the relics from the Max Max films. An evening watching the sunset on Mundi Mundi plains (not far from Silverton) is a great reminder of the stunning hidden beauty of the region.

If you’re staying in town for a few extra nights, it’s definitely worth booking yourself into an evening at Outback Astronomy – this writer has been, it’s a genuinely mind-expanding night. 

Broken Hill also features the Pro Hart Gallery – it’s worth a visit not least of all so you can say you’ve done it – but a more diverse (and frankly impressive) representation of art from the Far West is at the Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery.

On the music scene (beyond Broken Heel), there’s a surprising amount of nightlife on offer. The Palace Hotel – which hosts Broken Heel – is the pick of venues (it also happens to hold the only license in Australia for legal two-up games, which it stages on Friday nights), but there’s more than a dozen bars and clubs to choose from. Ask around when you hit town for the smaller venues hosting local and visiting bands.

Chris Graham is the publisher and editor of New Matilda. He is the former founding managing editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine. In more than three decades of journalism he's had his home and office raided by the Australian Federal Police; he's been arrested and briefly jailed in Israel; he's reported from a swag in Outback Australia on and off for years. Chris has worked across multiple mediums including print, radio and film. His proudest achievement is serving as an Associate producer on John Pilger's 2013 film Utopia. He's also won a few journalism awards along the way in both the US and Australia, including a Walkley Award, a Walkley High Commendation and two Human Rights Awards. Since late 2021, Chris has been battling various serious heart and lung conditions. He's begun the process of quietly planning a "gentle exit" after "tying up a few loose ends" in 2024 and 2025. So watch this space.