May 27, 2020
Murgon will get a unique $1.6 million tourist attraction if the Federal Government gives an ambitious community project the go-ahead.
The Creative Country Association (CCA) has lodged a funding application with the Building Better Regions Fund and is now waiting to see if it is successful.
CCA is a not-for-profit community group formed to promote the arts and the unique fossils found in the Murgon area.
They want to build a combined fossil museum, art gallery, workshop and cafe on land in Macalister Street adjacent to the Murgon Men’s Shed.
“There are a wealth of fossils buried around the Murgon district,” CCA spokesperson Richard O’Neill said.
“Some of them predate similar fossils by as much as 25 million years, and a number of the finds have been quite significant.
“For instance, one fossil that’s been found near Murgon is believed to be the ancestor of all the Earth’s songbirds.
“And the fossilised teeth of a 55 million-year-old Tingamarra Bandicoot found in 1995 are more than twice as old as any other bandicoot fossil known.
“They may help explain how major groups of Australian and South American marsupials are related to one another.”
According to the Australian Museum, the Murgon fossil site is significant as it is the only site in Australia that records diverse vertebrate fauna dating from the early Tertiary Period (55 million years ago), approximately ten million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs.
The site also includes the oldest fossil marsupial remains in Australia, a placental mammal (Condylarth), one of the world’s oldest bats, the only known fossil remains of leiopelmatid frogs, and the only known fossils of salamanders in Australia.
CCA wants to build a museum to display the fossils, along with a “prehistoric garden” that would show what the swampy Eocene landscape of 55 million years looked like and the creatures that lived in the region at that time.
As well, the building would house an art gallery to display and sell works by South Burnett artists – with a special focus on Indigenous art – along with an arts and crafts workshop, a theatrette and a cafe.
Richard said the complex would be about 30 metres square with an open-air garden in the centre.
It would be built by a local building firm, with construction work expected to support up to 40 jobs.
“This is a project that would boost regional tourism and provide a new outlet for our artists that is desperately needed,” he said.
“We also believe the workshops that would be run in the centre would help support mental health programs and help remedy some of the damage COVID-19 has caused in our communities.”
The project has drawn support from the Murgon Business and Development Association, which believes it would complement the town’s mix of attractions and help boost tourist numbers that already come to nearby Yallakool and wineries in the Moffatdale area.
The MBDA had considered a similar project several years ago but lacked the necessary volunteer manpower to operate the centre that CCA hopes to bring to the table.
Richard said the current round of Building Better Regions closed mid-way through December and the group hoped that successful projects would be announced very shortly.
“The COVID pandemic may have thrown the original schedule out of kilter, but with restrictions lifting we’re hoping to hear some good news soon,” he said.
“If we’re going to get the economy back up and firing as quickly as possible, it’s projects like this that will help give our region the shot in the arm it needs.”