17 September, 2006

More of Australia's Heritage at risk

Over the years, I've had the good fortune to visit some of the world's great museums - the Smithsonian in Washington, the British Museum in London,
the National Palace Museum near Taipei and so on.

Since I am interested in Military History, I have visited, among many others, the Imperial War Museum in London, the Junshi Baowuguan in Beijing, the Heersgesichtlichen Museums im Arsenal in Vienna, the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and the Yasukuni Jinja in Tokyo ((b.t.w., many of my own family members fought against the Japanese Empire; I had no qualms at all about going there)) .

Each of these museums has impressive budgets, outstanding buildings, researchers and curatorial staff of the highest calibre and, of course, the support of eminent and influential people (for example: the Friends of IWM
in London, Forum Viribus Unitis in Vienna).

Right over at the other end of the spectrum from these great museums are the community or unit museums, run on a shoestring budget by hard-working volunteers. They are museums that have usually started with a few people donating or loaning books, artifacts and memorabilia which they feel should not be lost forever and which they feel would interest a rising generation. More often than not, these collections are housed in old buildings; far from perfect conitions for conserving such collections but it is whatever housing for them that the local enthusiasts can afford.

Such a public-spirited group is the
Central Queensland Military & Artifacts Museum,
Bolsover Street, Rockhampton, Queensland 4700, Australia.

This small group has done a mighty job in bringing together an excellent collection for the public to see. Some of the collection was donated by the families of deceased service personnel, entrusted to the Museum by loved ones who knew that what was donated would be handled with care and respect. Some of the collection was rescued from garage sales and second-hand shops by dedicated members who selflessly used their own time, effort, money and fuel over several years to search for items to add to the collection. Display cabinets have been scrounged, recycled, repaired or whatever and filled with all sorts of irreplacable memorabilia. Models and dioramas have been created out of the most unlikely raw materials.

Although the main themes of this community museum are military, naval and air force, the displays are non-judgemental; neither war veterans nor anti-war activists alike would be offended at all by the displays. The memorabilia of former enemy are treated with as much respect as those of our own armed forces or those of our allies and neighbours. No political points are made, no ideology is promoted or despised - where items of wartime propaganda are displayed, they are done so without comment and simply show what things were said in those days. War and military service are not glorified or belittled; they are simply presented as things that have affected the lives of ordinary people.

All in all, this is an excellent community museum and a fine example of how a community's heritage can be saved.

The whole community too has appreciated the efforts of this small band of volunteers: When a Petition was given quite limited circulation for the acquisition of the historic and no longer used wooden barracks of the renowned 42 Battalion from the Department of Defence as a new home for the Museum, there were not dozens or even hundreds of signatories, there were THOUSANDS! Such is the respect these volunteers have earned.

Now this Museum, this priceless collection and these volunteers face a grave problem.

The Central Queensland Military & Artifacts Museum has been temporarily housed in the old Capricornia Electricity Commission office building ..... the building has been sold. The commercial reality is that they must move out very very soon!

Moving into the 42 Battalion barracks in Archer Park is the optimal solution ..... but a major problem has emerged: Over $ 400 000 (AUD = about $ 300 000 USD) in mandatory/compulsory repairs and associated costs is a bit beyond the resources of a small band of volunteers committed to preserving Australia's heritage.

Another solution might be having the Department of Defence donate the use of two of its steel buildings in the Weston Street Depot, Rockhampton, for the use of this military museum but non-military decision makers down in Canberra might fear a terrorist attack or have other compelling reasons and so they might prevent this happening in time. Yet another solution might be to make the repair of the historic 42 Battalion Barracks a week-long exercise (=manoeuvre) for an Australian Army Engineer squadron .......

What can you do to help this band of volunteers? I'm sure all suggestions (and donations too) would be welcome.


Iain said...

As always the devil is in the detail and this sort of thing is the bane of so many community organizations is all of the strings attached to many "gifts"
I wish them well in what will be a hard road.

Iain said...

and Bravo for removing moderaation :o)

Ungrateful Troublemaker said...

UPDATE The Rockampton city and Capricornia regional daily newspaper "The Morning Bulletin" carried a story with colour photo about the old 42 Battalion Barracks and the volunteers on page 9 of its print edition today (Tueday 21st September in Australia); unfortunately, this story does not appear on their on-line news sunmmary. The Federal Member for Capricornia, Kirsten Livermore, (= Federal Congresswoman) appeared in the story but there was no mention of support from the conservative coalition side of the Australian politics .... despite the conservative coalition Prime Minister, John Howard, gaining tremendous publicity and political advantage earlier this year from the fifty million dollar (AUD= $37 million USD) deal for the Townsville City Council in North Queensland to take over the historic Jezzine Barracks. Strange, really strange.

skepticlawyer said...

Bugger, have been so busy I didn't even know this was going on!

Did the Morning Bully mention anything about funding? This is the kind of thing local Rocky people will get behind if enough know about the issues.

Ungrateful Troublemaker said...

Can't remember if the "Morning Bulletin" article mentioned funding or not.

You are right about the ability of local people to get right behind a project like this - once they realize that their help is needed and what they can do to help.

Unfortunately, all this potential support has not yet been channelled - the volunteers themselves are far too busy with curatorial work and packing up to do so .... and the talent to do so among local war veterans is dissipated in factional distractions and minutae. It is way below the radar of important corporate identities in the region too.

Although a lot of local families have donated or loaned items to this community museum, the cumulative effect of them doing so is usually overlooked .... but not by Federal Member for Capricornis, Kirsten Livermore, and her staff - that photo-opportunity of her in the "Morning Bulletin" article was a dream one and it will certainly help her chances of being re-elected next year.

The success of the museum volunteers in getting thousands of signatures for their petition, despite its very limited circulation, was astonishing: professional activists would be green with envy at such success by a bunch of amateurs; I wonder if these volunteers would have cracked fifty thousand or more signatures with a full-on publicity campaign?

Let's hope this community museum finds a new home fast (their current building will become a hotel; the builders will start work very soon).

skepticlawyer said...

I'm out of town next week for work, but after that I'm back around for a month. Next time you're in Rocky, stop by the courthouse and we'll catch up. I may be able to come up with something once I'm across the issues.

I walk past the CQ Military museum twice every day walking to & from work :)

Ungrateful Troublemaker said...

Look forward to meeting and chatting about the museum ((actually, we had met rather briefly a few years back at a Buddhist function at Southbank - you were there with your mother -no, I'm not a Buddhist myself)).

Any ideas you come up with would be very welcome. Short of guessing all six numbers for a $2:10 Lotto ticket, there's not much I can come up with just yet in the way of financial assistance for this community museum. And any robust measures that come to mind for finding a new home for this museum would definitely get one talked about.

b.t.w., the Nationals candidate for Rockhampton in the recent State election, Robert Mills, was until recently President of the C.Q. Military and Artifacts Museum ......

Ungrateful Troublemaker said...

Look forward to meeting and chatting about the museum ((actually, we had met rather briefly a few years back at a Buddhist function at Southbank - you were there with your mother -no, I'm not a Buddhist myself)).

Any ideas you come up with would be very welcome. Short of guessing all six numbers for a $2:10 Lotto ticket, there's not much I can come up with just yet in the way of financial assistance for this community museum. And any robust measures that come to mind for finding a new home for this museum would definitely get one talked about.

b.t.w., the Nationals candidate for Rockhampton in the recent State election, Robert Mills, was until recently President of the C.Q. Military and Artifacts Museum ......

28/9/06 22:54

skepticlawyer said...

I don't know if you read my big piece for Quadrant (it's here if you haven't), but my mum had a Buddhist funeral - the whole shebang. One of the most beautiful things I've ever witnessed.

There's a fair bit of unused office space in Rocky, although a lot of it is being snapped up with the resources boom. I'm thinking there must be some sort of arrangement where the museum could at least find a temporary home, and maybe something better if a way can be found to pay the rent.

Ungrateful Troublemaker said...

Thanks for the "Quadrant" link. Excellent.

Sorry to hear about your mother; glad she got a good sendoff. I had the impression, after that brief meeting with her, that she was very well educated indeed and better mannered than some so I was surprised at what you said in your article.

Yes, there was the former auction rooms opposite city hall but the building has probably been sold by now - it would have been ideal (cargo/passenger lift, ease of access, etc.). There are a few other buildings that could be used but again, it comes down to money.

skepticlawyer said...

My mum worked very, very hard to educate herself.

She always struggled with writing (what often happens with truncated schooling), but she read as much as she could. This was especially the case after my old man died and her time wasn't continually occupied putting out fires he'd started.

She actually starting learning about Buddhism after dad's death - perhaps even in response to it - although I never asked her that.

One thing, I notice the museum hosts the Vietnam Vets drop-in centre. I'm assuming (perhaps wrongly) that this is a government funded body. If so (or even if not), depriving the museum of a home will be harder to justify if it offers this important community service.

Ungrateful Troublemaker said...

There are actually TWO drop-in centres for Viet-Nam War veterans in Rockhampton .... and now no RSL Anzac Club; it's all a part of the well-encouraged factionalism among veterans' groups and the government's divide-and-conquer program. I'm not sure what the funding situation is this week. I'm not sure about the TPI Association's position (they're co-located) but there are sure to be some funding implications.

The museum itself may have started off with a TPI Association core collection.

Took another glance at your "Quadrant" article. Wow! .... hope you don't sell the film rights until you get advice from the film industry's David Tiley (of Barista blog fame; also seen on LP)

skepticlawyer said...

We'll get together week after next (I'm out of town for a murder trial 2-5 October) and talk things through. There must be a heap of issues in play.

Dunno about a film version, though. I don't think my story is that interesting (although bits of it are pretty good ;)

Ungrateful Troublemaker said...


Yesterday, I met a fellow who was working on something to go into the museum .... he has stopped for the time being because of the uncertainty over the museum's future. That was one bad aspect I hadn't even thought about.

Film? Modern-day Emperor's New Clothes story (that would infuriate Australia's moribund elite) with story of successful larrikin lady (that would go over well with younger audiences in Asia). Why not?

Out of town next week? No worries.

Ungrateful Troublemaker said...

Decision .... and news of fate of this community museum .... expected very soon.

Robust packing boxes needed for moving the collection out of presenty building. Can anyone help, please?

skepticlawyer said...

Am back in town for criminal sittings for the next month. My lunch hour starts at 1; talk to Peter (downstairs on security desk; with beard) and he'll call up for me. We'll head up to Maddy's for a lunch and a bit of a think about strategy. Let me know which day you prefer and we'll go from there. In the meantime I'll let Peter know a Graham Bell will be dropping by this week when I get to work Monday.

Ungrateful Troublemaker said...

Thanks. Short notice but - jutro wtorek? Rockhampton City Council have still not finalized their own decisions on the matter.

Ungrateful Troublemaker said...



An apology. I was a bit tough on politicians earlier and I have been told that there are several members of parliament, both federal and state and from all sides of politics, who have expressed support for the fine work being done by these voluunteers. Sorry. And an apology, too, to each of those local businesses which have indeed supported the museum.


Congratulations on the opening, the other day, of the National Museum of the Marine Corps at Quantico, Virgina, USA.


(Hope to visit there myself one day)


The Rockhampton City Council (=city/municipal government) voted AGAINST the offer made by the Department of Defence to sell the historic barracks complex to the Council for little more than a peppercorn. One of the reasons stated for the decision was that upkeep of the historic barracks "could be as much as $100 000 a year".[AUD = $75 000 USD]; an interesting maximum figure which completely ignores various government grants as well as funding from many private foundations, institutions and bequests. Right now, the market for horsefeathers in Rockhampton is just fine.

So what is really going on? Who benefits if the museum is made homeless? Whose grubby vanity has been tweaked by the success of this band of hard-working volunteers.

There is a groundswell of public anger building up over the way the public, which showed such support for the museum and its volunteers, is being treated by both the City Council and the Federal Government.

....Watch this space ....

Ungrateful Troublemaker said...


The Rockhampton City Council considered the issue again. Came up with some truly artistic and truly incredible excuses .... and refused to take up their challenge and their duty.

The matter may be finished ..... but the museum and its people are not finished .... they are merely homeless, that's all.

Ungrateful Troublemaker said...

Guess what!

The historic 42RQR Barracks is now For Sale By Auction "UNDER INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENCE".

The selling agents are Ray Hooper First National www.rayhooper.com.au

Development potential is, of course, "subject to contract conditions and relevant heritage and planning controls"

However, this property is near the Rockhampton Central Business District and is suitably distant from any schools or other things which would impede a well-informed and clever developer - complying with all relevant laws, regulations, conditions and undertakings, of course - from seeking a rapid, high return on investment from this excellent property by applying for it to be developed as a licenced brothel ....

minder in mackay said...

hello to the volunteers of the military museum in Rocky. we visited it may this year 2007. quite an impressive collection. hope the old wooden building gets it funding and is brought up to scratch as a museum. getting down to business... i use the newspapers social pages to get a lot of free publicity for our organization. if you use a photo of an event with a story to accompany it you can place it in the social pages at no charge and the photo is an attention grabber for anyone reading the paper thus they then read the article with it. you may be able to submit an article and photo once a month. start with the tentitive opening ceremony of the new "old" museum for the first photo and article eg like when they turn the first sod for a grand building. you will only need the volunteers, the building, some artifacts and if possible a notable sponsor or local identity to grab the readers attention. the latter is not a must but would help. second one, if you haven't had it already is a grand opening fete on the grounds. people drop donations in the poor box at the door. any vendors supplying food stuffs also donate a percentage of their takings, ask for 10% you might get 5% but it's all money and you get public exposure from the article about the forthcoming opening and fete and then another article reporting the fete. see it just rolls on. photos are the secret. the last week of school isn't that far away, email, fax the school for the kids to have an excursion in their last week. more photo opportunities plus lets whole schools know about you including the kids families, extended families. ask ( you must ask if you want them ) the local tv news crew to come along to the grand opening, fete, the first school tour. and always have the poor box. later when the museum is more organised people would only be too pleased to pay to come in. what do you think of wearing ww2 style uniforms.