As part of the MDO role, every so often we hit the road to reconnect with some of the more far-flung communities in our region and get to know the places and people throughout Queensland. As I’m the newest member of the MDO team, as well as not a Queensland local, it was definitely time for me to get to know a bit more of the Southern Inland Queensland region. So with Ewen as co-pilot, this week I set out on a three week journey to meet the people caring for heritage and telling community stories as far west as Birdsville. As we go I’ll share some of the tales we’re lucky enough to be told, as we head from Toowoomba via the Gonndiwindi region, Balonne, Paroo, Quilpie, Diamantina, Murweh and Maranoa.
Our first stop was the little rural town of Texas, right on the border of New South Wales. The town got its iconic name from early pastoral runs, and when a holding was disputed the owner was inspired to name the station Texas, apparently a reference to land disputes common in the American range lands. While in town we were welcomed to the Rabbit Works, an amazing brick building on the edge of town which was a lifeline for the community during the Great Depression of the 1930s. It’s also the only remaining Rabbit Works building in the country, making it extra special! Queensland, like much of Australia, had been overrun by rabbits who decimated feed and ruined the landscape. The Rabbit Works provided work for locals, and supplied meat and fur to the United Kingdom and the USA, as well as to Akubra to make their famous hats. We were both absolutely amazed by some of the information shared about the rabbit economy for Australia, including more than four BILLION rabbits – skins and meat – being exported from Australia between 1904 and 1947. The Texas community including the dedicated team of volunteers who manage the site have done an incredible job in bringing this site to life, assisted by the work of the Goondiwindi Regional Council.
Unfortunately this time around we weren’t able to visit the Texas Heritage Centre and Tobacco Museum as they’re closed for renovation works – we’ll be back when they’re open again to see what they’ve been up to!
After a chilly night in Texas we headed further west to Goondiwindi, with a quick stop at Yelarbon to marvel at the towering silo art.
Goondiwindi is the home of Gunsynd the Grey, a racehorse renowned for his humble beginnings and incredible racing prowess. We stopped in at the Civic Centre to find out more about this beloved horse, and enjoyed some of the lovely photos and stories of this local legend. Previous MDO Lydia Egunnike put together this display alongside the Goondiwindi Council so it was great to see some of her work in the wild!
After a short stroll along the Macintyre River, waving hello at New South Wales on the opposite bank, we made our way to the Customs House Museum. Manned by a team of dedicated volunteers, this collection of heritage buildings from the Goondiwindi region showcases stories of local ingenuity, times of crisis and celebration, and gives visitors a great sense of what makes Goondiwindi tick. We both particularly liked the two flood boats, one of which was used in the devastating 1956 flood to mark the high water lines on trees along the riverbank. The town engineer then used these markings to design the levee, which has been so successful Goondwindi hasn’t flooded since!
After defrosting Ewen from tropical Townsville in the sun along the Macintyre River (walking along the flood-prevention levees!), it was time to head back to rest and regroup. Next we are headed to Thallon and St George – adventures ahead!