Blog Archives

“Play the ball” at the Ration Shed Museum

MDO Lydia Egunnike began her NAIDOC week by attending the launch of a new exhibition celebrating the extraordinary sporting history of Cherbourg, a small town in the South Burnett region. Cherbourg, or Barambah as it was originally called, was established by Salvation Army member William Thompson in 1899. It became a Government Settlement in 1904. Under the “Aboriginal Protection Act” Aboriginal people from across Queensland and New South Wales were relocated to Cherbourg. From its beginnings, the community produced an exceptional number of local, state and national champions across a wide range of sports. Many of the surrounding communities recruited team members from Cherbourg. The Ration Shed museum celebrates this history in their new exhibition “Play the ball”.

The day began at the Cherbourg cemetery with the poignant unveiling of a new headstone for Frank “Big Shot” Fisher, a Cherbourg legend, and rugby league great.

After a hearty morning tea, the “Play the ball” exhibition was launched with the cutting of the ribbon by former local ruby league player Uncle Cecil Brown. Chris Sarra (on behalf of the Australian Rugby League Commission) presented a presentation plaque celebrating the Cherbourg rugby league “Team of the Century”.

“Play the ball” shares the triumphant and moving stories of Cherbourg’s sporting champions and unsung heroes. The exhibition uses a vibrant mix of photographic, oral history and audio-visual content. A number of original objects such as trophies are also on display.

The audience is encouraged to reflect upon the social, political, and cultural context in which these sporting achievements occurred. They are also reminded of the potential power of sports to instil pride and bring communities together. The exhibition has been developed as “a reconciliation process for Cherbourg and surrounding communities, a display of local pride in achievement, an affirmation of prowess and ability, and a demonstration of what is possible to the community youth.” (

If you would like more information on the exhibition and the Ration Shed Museum, please go to

Cherbourg boxer, James Stanley's trophies.

Cherbourg boxer, James Stanley’s trophies.


Racing on the River: Tambo backs 150 years of winners!

Trial starts, Tambo c.1890 Image courtesy of Charmaine Bailey

Trial starts, Tambo c.1890
Image courtesy of Charmaine Bailey

Keen punters from Western Queensland and beyond gathered in Tambo this year for a very special race meet to mark 150 years of horse racing. In the long history of Queensland racing, Tambo lays claim to the earliest organised race day west of the Great Dividing Range.

With horses being the most common form of transport at the time, it is no surprise that the first organised horse races were held in the district on the 20th and 21st of July 1864, barely one year after the gazetting of the township. No doubt fuelled by community spirit and the posturing of both riders and breeders, the first race was hosted by Henry L. Harden, owner of Northampton Downs station. The event was staged under the name of the Great Western Downs Race Meeting and saw 4 races each day, with 21 horses entered by 14 owners. Prizes included a number of silver trophies, silver spurs, and around 54 sovereigns prize money- not a small sum for the time!

Museum Development Officer Josh Tarrant,  Blackall Tambo Regional Council  Deputy Mayor Cr. Richelle Johnson and The Hon. Federal Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce at the opening of Racing on the River.

MDO Josh Tarrant, Blackall Tambo Regional Council Deputy Mayor Cr. Richelle Johnson and The Hon. Federal Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce at the opening of Racing on the River. Image courtesy of Tambo & District Race Club

To help celebrate the event, the Central Queensland MDO worked with the Tambo & District Race Club to develop and produce Racing on the River, a travelling exhibition exploring the history of racing in the district.

An exciting discovery was made during the exhibition development: the location of the first racing trophy, “The Northampton Downs Cup”. With community assistance, this holy grail of Tambo Racing history was traced back to a private collector in Toowoomba. Mrs Diana Mayall was kind enough to loan the precious piece of history for part of the exhibition.

The exhibition will travel to a number of venues in the Blackall Tambo Region throughout 2014. This project was supported by funding from the Regional Arts Development Fund through Arts Queensland and Blackall Tambo Regional Council partnering to support local arts and culture.

MDO’s in Coen post Cyclone Ita

Traveling along the Peninsula Development Road up to Coen.

Traveling along the Peninsula Development Road up to Coen.

Almost a month after Cyclone Ita threatened communities along the Far North Queensland coast, it is great to see museums in the Cook Shire back in business and getting ready for the tourist season. The museums and collecting groups in the region did a great job with their disaster preparedness – it’s fortunate that the predicted impact did not eventuate for these organisations. After being in close contact with the groups during the lead up to the cyclone, it was great for the MDOs for Far North Queensland and North Queensland to travel to the region and undertake some practical work with communities.

Cape York Heritage House, Coen

Cape York Heritage House, Coen

Displays at Cape York Heritage House, Coen

Displays at Cape York Heritage House, Coen

Telegraph Station Displays at Cape York Heritage House, Coen

Telegraph Station Displays at Cape York Heritage House, Coen

Last week, Jo Wills and Ewen McPhee traveled up the Peninsula Development Road to Coen to work with Gail and Peter Clark at Cape York Heritage House. There is always something to see and enjoy while traveling through this magnificent country – this time there was much more water around, and small billabongs and water lilies were evident along the roadside. It was also good to see that heritage places like the Musgrave Telegraph Station were still standing strong. Unfortunately, as the road through Lakeland National Park was closed we couldn’t visit Old Laura Homestead to see how that had fared.

Jo and Ewen have worked at Cape York Heritage House in Coen for the last three years, each time helping the local volunteers to clean, refresh, reinvigorate and reinstall displays. Every year, the volunteers pack down the museum for the wet season and reinstall at the beginning of May. In addition to the usual work, this year the MDO’s helped Gail begin work on a new policing display, put up some information about WWI, cleaned up the mining machinery display and developed plans for future projects in the region.

After three days in Coen, the MDOs headed back to Cooktown to James Cook Museum and Nature’s Powerhouse. Although cyclone damage is a little more evident there, again it is nowhere near the predicted impact.

Stay tuned for more entries about the MDO’s recent activities in Cooktown.

In Times of War: FNQ remembers WWI

Exhibition Poster for Cairns Historical Society's new WWI exhibitionCairns Historical Society’s photographs manager, Pauline O’Keeffe, has been working on a WWI exhibition called “In Times of War: FNQ Remembers WWI”. The goal of exhibition is to present stories about Far North Queensland, and the impact war had on the local community, rather than focus on battles in the international arena.

“In Times of War’ is based around the Cairns Historical Society’s significant photographic collection. It will showcase more than 150 images of enlisting men, enlistment posters, war based events like enlistment march, Kanowna expedition, Red Cross, community involvement and the region at that time together with explanatory documentation.

The exhibition opens on Friday April 4 in Tank 4 at the Tank Arts Centre in Cairns and runs until April 27. The opening will include a performance by the Tropical Brass Band and a theatrical presentation by local artist Sue Hayes based on the enlistment process. The theatrical presentation will be rerun on  Thursday 10 April when the Society will also run a lecture night and present papers on FNQ related WW1 topics.

Pauline, a long term volunteer with the Society, has undertaken significant research to put this project together. Her findings, which include a gap in collections and knowledge about the impact of the war in regional communities, means she believes the Anzac centenary period offers communities a chance to build upon this research and leave a legacy of new knowledge for future generations.

For more information about the project, please contact the Cairns Historical Society on:

This project is supported by funding from the Australian Government under the Anzac Centenary Local Grants Program and by the Regional Arts Development Fund through Arts Queensland and Cairns Regional Council partnering to support local arts and culture.

LETTERS and the Zara Clark Museum collection

As part of the month long Charters Towers Heritage and Cultural Festival, Zara Clark Museum developed a new exhibition with the help of North Queensland MDO, Ewen McPhee.  The theme for the festival is “Letters Around the World” with many events happening around the town.  The festival will culminate in an extravaganza on Saturday 28th September where digital images will be projected on the walls of eleven historic buildings capturing the past, present and future of Charters Towers.  Ephemeral sculptures, music, dance and performance pieces will be performed in the main street of town.

charters towers image

Zara Clark Museum, Charters Towers

The LETTERS exhibition at Zara Clark Museum took each letter of the word letters and themed it with collection objects. L- letters, E – education, T – tradition, T – translation, E – everyday, R – records, S -signs.

One of the most powerful objects is a pair of half knitted socks and an accompanying letter from a son, a World War 1 soldier, to his mother.  In the letter Jim, the son, describes his life, how he has lost mates and has a  sad and tearful heart.  Despite this he is proud to be an Aussie.  In the closing paragraph Jim states “The weather over here at present is very wet and the winter is coming on us again.  You might knit me some socks and send me a pair of warm gloves….“.  The mother started to knit the socks but they were left unfinished after the news of her son’s death.  The half finished socks along with the letter are located in the museum in the L- Letters section.


Letter and Socks

Other interesting objects include a Welsh bible, a shorthand bible, and part of the original Chinese Joss House in the T – translation section.  The S – sign, section has an original Hardies Fibrolite metal sign advertising asbestos for walls and ceilings.  The R- records section has original ledgers from the Burns Philp days and also mining records from Charters Towers gold rush days.





tin dance signs – T- tradition

The Letters Exhibition will run until the end of October.

Mackay Museums are Winners!

The 1911 Sugar Strike display, 2011

Congratulations to the five community museums in the Mackay region who received the 2012 Gallery & Museum Achievement Award in the category ‘Organisations: Volunteer Run’ for their joint exhibition Sugar Strike: The Impact of the 1911 Sugar Strike on the Mackay Region.

 In 2011 five museums in the Mackay region joined together to tell the story of the 1911 sugar strike including local events which had state and national ramifications. Read the rest of this entry

Mt Morgan Murri

Check out our latest case study on Bronwyn’s work with the Mt Morgan Museum volunteers to produce Mt Morgan Murri: Indigenous stories of the Mt Morgan region.

Cairns Museum: installing a new exhibition

Cairns Museum will soon be opening a new exhibition called Cairns 1942: War in a northern town. Last weekend 10 volunteers worked tirelessly to help prepare the exhibition space for the new display. Old displays were dismantled and stored. New walls were installed. The exhibition space and object cases were vigorously cleaned. And new display panels and objects were temporarily placed to ensure the layout was correct. Stay tuned to see more images from the exhibition after it officially opens on Tuesday 5 June 2012.


Michael, Les, Deb and Jo dismantle part of the old displays at Cairns Museum.

Photographer: Suzanne Gibson.