Wondai, A Rural Country Town

Wondai, A Rural Country Town


Posted 2023-01-26 by Susan J Bowesfollow
It has been many years since I have stopped in Wondai, Queensland, so on a recent drive through South Burnett, I decided it was time to stop for a wander around the town. Wondai is an aboriginal word meaning "wild dog" and to celebrate this indigenous reference, there are two sculptured dingoes featured on a rock at the roundabout welcoming visitors to the town.

My first stop was to visit the Wondai Regional Art Gallery , which at the time was hosting the October 2022 Open Art Competition with a $3,000 Mayor's Acquisitive Art Price judged from every section of art in the gallery. I was advised that contestants enter from all over Queensland for this valued prize, which incorporates the use of different mediums and themes.

The gallery building was once the original Wondai Station Master's House dating back to 1903. Over time the building has been extended and lowered, yet renovators kept the original features such as the timber flooring and high ceilings. As there are three competitions a year, artists have the opportunity to display their works for one month at very little cost. Local schools are invited to display their students' work for free. The gallery is also available for hire at very a reasonable cost.

The gallery is open daily from 10.00am to 3.00pm and is manned by avid volunteers. If you wish to become a member, membership is $5.00 per year, which will entitle you to quarterly newsletters, information on upcoming competitions, exhibitions and other events.

Across the road from the gallery is the South Burnett Timber Industry Museum , Visitor Information Centre and Gift Store and definitely the place to go if you are wanting tourist brochures on places to see and visit in the area. This office is also manned by volunteers.

As in a lot of rural areas, Wondai was well known for its cattle and timber industries. It is hard to understand in today's environmental age that hardwood trees were once felled as part of a major industry that brought growth to small towns and their economies. To educate and create awareness of these valuable industries, towns display their history in museums throughout Queensland.

The South Burnett Timber Industry Museum and Visitor Information Centre opened in Wondai in November 2021 and is visited by many interested travellers each year. Upon entering there is a small gift store showcasing items made by the members of the Woodcrafter's workshop , which is situated next door to the museum and open most days.

I am always interested in seeing the saws used in the timber industry before large machinery was invented. One can only imagine the conditions our forefathers laboured whilst also carrying their cutting implements from one site to another, let alone working in Queensland's long hot summers for weeks at a time. A wall inside the front door displays saws and other tools used during these times.

Also inside, behind a glass window, is a restored bullock wagon and camp site providing a stark reality of what it was like in the days long ago. The bullock dray was purchased from Norm Simpson, who had restored it in a "pioneer way" by hand, without power tools. I am fortunate to be of an age where my grandparents relate stories of their working life as portrayed here but can imagine our younger generation being surprised that there was a time when there was no refrigerator, esky or the like.

I was very impressed with the authenticity of the campsite diorama and a little emotional due to my awareness of the conditions in which they worked and lived. Plaques along the front of the glass could be read in accordance with the display.

On the opposite wall from the campsite display were many wooden tiles showing the timber from the area. I am one who loves the smell of timber and the crafted items that can be produced from it. I was surprised by the number of different timbers on display. There are also videos to be watched and publications to be read while in the museum.

Outside the building is a life-sized eye-catching structure of a bullocky and his head bullocks, a water well and a post-and-rail fence. The Visitors Information Centre and Timber Museum is open Monday to Saturday from 9.00am to 2.00pm. Entry is free.

Another life-size structure is that of Charlotte the Emu , which was a much-loved resident of Wondai until her tragic death in 2014. In recognition of her life and fondness from the townsfolk, public contributions were given to erect a sculpture in Coronation Park.

There are many accommodation places to stay in Wondai but if you have a caravan or motorhome, there is a free camp in Haly Street near the museum where toilets and showers are available or for approximately $20.00 per night for powered sites and $10.00 per night for un-powered sites you can pull up camp at the Wondai Showgrounds in Baynes Street. The latter has free BBQ usage, showers, and toilets and individual or group bookings are invited.

For a hearty meal, you may like to consider Wondai Diggers and Memorial Club, The Sawmill Hotel or Tingoora Pub where lunch and dinner is catered. The Cecil Hotel has café meals and takeaways.

Wonda i is another great little country town, which is putting itself on the map with history and also as a relaxed place to stop on your travels across Queensland. I must also advise that Wondai's public toilets are well maintained and this is always an added asset to any town for travellers.

The Wondai Country Running Festival is scheduled for 24 - 25 June 2023; this may be a perfect opportunity for a visit to the town.

80405 - 2023-06-11 05:33:25


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