Thursday, February 23, 2012
Journeys on the Long Paddock
After a delayed flight we arrived in Griffith on Tuesday morning and popped in to the Griffith Pioneer Park Museum where we met with Manager Darryl Collins and Councillor Pat Cox. The Pioneer Park is home to an incredible variety of heritage buildings that have been moved to the site from the surrounding district, including a one room school, small temporary buildings made from scrap materials and covered in canvas bagging from Bagtown (the construction camp for the early 20th century irrigation scheme), a police lockup and a pub.
The Pioneer Park is also home to the Italian Museum. Strongly supported by the local Italian community, the Italian museum celebrates Griffith's large and diverse Italian community, their contribution to the wine industry and the vibrancy of Griffith. We were also privileged to have a sneak peek at the newest display area in the Pioneer Park- a new building dedicated to telling the story of the local wineries. It was great to hear that the building has been strongly supported both financially and through the donation of collection items by the wineries themselves.
The Pioneer Park is clearly a community hub, as we wandered through the grounds, children from the play group that meets there on weekdays were scooting around, the local craft group meets in one of the heritage buildings on a weekly basis as does the local arts society. Darryl also showed us plans for a new entrance building with a small conference facility that he hopes will enable even more community groups to use the Pioneer Park.
After a lovely lunch of sandwiches and cake (with extra supplies gratefully packed for the road) we headed off to Hay where we met with General Manager Allen Dwyer and Corporate Services Director Mark Dowling. Mark is also a volunteer at the Hay Gaol Museum and on the board of Shear Outback so was able to give insight into these museums from both Council's and the Museums' perspective. It was great to meet someone so senior in a council so engaged with the local museum community.
We called in briefly to Shear Outback before heading to Deniliquin. Shear Outback celebrates the significant contribution shearers have made to regional Australia with exhibitions about the history of shearing, interactives that give visitors a sense of the energy used in shearing and video oral histories and images about shearing life. Adjacent to the museum building is a heritage shearing shed where a local shearer provides shearing demonstrations for visitors.
Leaving Hay we headed south on the Cobb Highway to Deniliquin, the highway is part of the Long Paddock, a droving route used to move livestock from Queensland through NSW to Victoria. Along the route are a series of interpretive panels and artworks highlighting local stories and sites. We were particularly taken with the story of the headless horseman depicted in a series and large cutout metal figures silloueted against the horizon like giant shadow puppets. As the car's airconditiong had stopped working just out of Griffith, we experienced the full brunt of the day's heat and were delighted to arrive in Deniliquin and gaze upon the tree lined river.