My name is John Geoghegan and I have a DREAM, a dream for the PILBARA.
But before I tell you what the dream is, let me explain how I came to have such a dream.
In 1970, my wife Marion and I pulled a caravan from Brisbane to the Pilbara travelling 6000 ks to work for Mt Newman Mining in Port Hedland.
The Nullarbor was a dirt road, and heading north, the bitumen stopped just north of Carnarvon at Barradale.
Karratha was in the planning stages and South Hedland did not exist.
We lived in Port Hedland for 34 years and our 2 daughters were born there.
I was made redundant by BHP in 2003 and it was now time to decide “What to do next with our lives?” After some considerable thought, we decided to buy another caravan, to become a Grey Nomad and to tour Australia.
Over the next 6 years, the open road took us to places all over the country where we found and experienced so many and varied, special tourist attractions, museums and places of interest.
Many of these towns were small, like Boulia in the west of Queensland. It has a population of only 300 but here they had created a museum dedicated to the Min Min Light which is regularly seen in that area.
One of the more famous places of interest is at Winton with a population of 1600. Winton was the home of the Waltzing Matilda Centre, which I’m sure many people have heard of. Unfortunately it was burnt down 17 June 2015, but because of the significance to the town, they are raising funds to rebuild it again.
A number of other places we visited in Queensland were:
*The John Flynn Centre for the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Cloncurry and the Terrestrial in Georgetown which showcases the rocks and minerals of the region.
*In the Dinosaur Triangle of Winton, Hughenden and Richmond, Richmond has created the Kronosaurus Korner dedicated to the dinosaurs found there.
*Outback at Isa is a mining and historical centre at Mt Isa. Here they have dug a complete underground mine for the tourists to give them a taste of what life is like underground.
*The Big Rig in Roma shows off the oil industry in that part of the state.
*The Cosmos Centre in Charleville has a range of special telescopes to look at the stars.
*The Qantas Founders Centre and the Stockman Hall of Fame in Longreach speak for themselves.
Other places we visited In New South Wales and Victoria were:
*The Killer Whale Museum in Eden which shows off their whaling history.
*Sovereign Hill and the Eureka Centre in Ballarat are both well known nationally.
*In Warrnambool, we found a seafaring heritage village called Flagstaff Hill.
I could go on, but by now I think you get the picture.
As we travelled, we reflected back on what we knew of the history of the Pilbara and the amazing journey it has had over the last century. It didn’t take long before I started to put my thoughts on paper listing the many points of interest that we could think of about the Pilbara and its towns.
This brings me to MY DREAM, My Dream for the Pilbara.
I dream of a Tourist Attraction to rival that of the Stockman Hall of Fame, but with a uniquely Pilbara Flavour. For now, I am going to call it “The PILBARA PIONEERS”.
Because of my connection to Port Hedland and that Port Hedland will celebrate 125 years in 2021, I have put forward this proposal to the Town of Port Hedland as a project for the 2021 celebration.
Many people may wonder what could possibly be of interest in such a venture and what could be displayed.
The Outback at Isa and The Stockman Hall of Fame offer a conceptual idea for a model to use. I have chosen three general headings as areas of interest that could be covered as a starting point. These are – the PAST, the PRESENT and the PEOPLE. I’m sure everyone will come up with other topics or ideas that could be added later with some thought.
Let’s look back at the PAST. We must start with our Original Aboriginal Inhabitants and their Culture including the stone carvings found at the Burrup. , Next there is the early Exploration of the Region, the start of the Pearling industry, Pastoral both sheep and cattle, the early Mining for Gold at Marble Bar. Included would be the work of the Australian Inland Mission, Hospitals, Churches, the Ports, Education and early cyclones. WW2 would highlight the bombing of Port Hedland, the secret bomber airfield at Corunna Downs as well as Z Force operating from Exmouth. The historical Aboriginal Strikes of 1946, Roads and Bridges, the Railway to Marble Bar, Power and Water all need to be showcased. Transport as well has a part to play with Aviation including Kingsford Smith, the MMA Vickers Viscount crash in 1968 and Rhodes Ridley Truck specially built for hauling manganese. Finally there is the early development of the Towns and settlements throughout the Pilbara.
With the PRESENT, we would include the modern Pastoral Industry and the Geology of the Area. This leads onto Mining which includes, Gold, Manganese, Asbestos, Iron Ore, Salt, Copper, Tantalite, Tin, Gas and Oil, Nickel and Other Minerals such as Lithium currently being drilled at Pilgangora as well as the modern Pearling Industry. We would also look at the Modern Development of Infrastructure such as the Towns, Shipping and Ports, Roads and Bridges, the Railways, Communications including the fibre optic cable from Indonesia, Cyclones, Border Protection and Defence, the Royal Flying Doctor Service and Airports as well as the Atom Bomb testing on the Montebello Islands, the Detention Centre and our National Parks.
Finally, the PEOPLE would reflect on the Aboriginals both past and present, Early Explorers, Pastoralists, Miners, Percy Gratwick VC, Bert Maddingan MC, the Diversity of Nationalities that have helped to develop the Pilbara, the Government Workers and Public Servants, Private Enterprise, Sportsmen and Women.
The list goes on.
I know, you know, we all know that the Pilbara has an interesting, diverse, unique and fascinating history. Bits and pieces of that history are scattered everywhere, some accessible and some not accessible. Through people like you, I would like to encourage your support for a proposal that The PILBARA PIONEERS be developed and to build a special display centre for the region to bring all these points of history together into one place before they are lost.
I appreciate it will be a very large and a very expensive exercise that will need the support of federal, state and local governments, businesses both large and small from throughout the region and would include organisations with paid and volunteer workers,.
In Appendix A is a table showing a few details of some of the centres, the towns and their populations. If these towns can successful run their unique centres, with all the resources and population in the Pilbara, we are in a privileged position to create something SUPER SPECIAL.
Now that the mining and construction boom over, something new is needed to stimulate interest and to continue momentum into the future within our region.
I believe The PILBARA PIONEERS could be that project.
It would need a large plot of land, to be located in a prominent position adjoining, but off the highway, with an extensive area of many acres to allow for future expansion. Some displays would need to be housed in large, purpose built air-conditioned buildings using the latest hi-tech gadgetry while others such as mining and pastoral equipment, windmills, locomotives etc could be set out in a specially prepared yard. I believe it could be a new home for the Tourist Information and Visitors Centre. Included could be a coffee shop, art gallery, souvenir, book and gift shop and there would need to be a large car-park to cater for buses, caravans and motorhomes. From Port Hedland, I envisage Dalgety House, the Don Rhodes Mining Museum and the three BHP locomotives could be relocated to be part of this complex. Maybe some of the locomotives and rolling stock at Dampier could also find a new home here as well.
This would be an opportunity to engage government departments such as Western Power and Horizon Power for the latest ideas in energy and power generation such as a wind generator, solar farm and power storage. The Water Corporation could showcase water conservation and recycling.
The building industry could offer the latest innovations in cooling, building materials and ideas to be a show piece for the region. Maybe one of the WA universities could use the centre for practical hands on and experimental training. The area should be landscaped with special gardens of local desert flora, displaying wild flowers in the winter and spring which would be a highlight for the complex as this is the main tourist time.
During the centenary of Port Hedland in 1996, many people were interviewed to record their stories before these were lost with the passing of time. I believe a centre like The PILBARA PIONEERS, will take preservation a step further, by offering an opportunity to collect, save and care for objects and our history as well as the stories and information before they are lost.
There are THOUSANDS of tourists travelling throughout West Australia and the Pilbara looking for that something special to visit. Apart from the Whaling Station and the new ANZAC Centre in Albany, the Kalgoorie-Boulder Gold Centre, the Karijini Visitors Centre and the Maritime Museum in Fremantle there are few examples like this in WA.
I believe The PILBARA PIONEERS would be an initiative that would put the Pilbara on the map and pay dividends for many years to come. This would make the Pilbara, the FOCUS for tourists to travel TO, rather than be a place they have to travel THROUGH to go somewhere else.
As the saying goes, “Build it and they will come.”
The centre would need a unique and catchy logo and of course, a name. But until another one comes along, I shall continue to call it “The PILBARA PIONEERS”.
I would like to thank you for taking the time to listen to My Dream.
Now with help, your help, I dream that it could become a reality, a reality that would showcase the Pilbara in all its glory, for many, many years to come.
If you would like to find out more, feel free to phone or send me an email as I would love to hear from you and how you could help.
0423 76 0376
John Flynn Centre – RFDS
Waltzing Matilda Centre
Min Min Encounter
Outback at Isa
The Big Rig
Stockman Hall of Fame