Creative Country Association secretary Leo Geraghty OAM was emotional as he explained the history of the “55 Million Years Ago” project

October 10, 2023

“After five years of hard work, this day has finally arrived …”

The emotion in Creative Country Association secretary Leo Geraghty’s voice as he spoke summed up the significance of last week’s official opening of “55 Million Years Ago”, Murgon’s new fossil museum and art gallery in Macalister Street.

Leo, who is also president of the Murgon Business and Development Association, explained the layout of the building: on the left after entering is the “Fossilarium”, which has items for sale, and on the right, a gift shop, information area and entry to the Prehistoric garden. Toilets are also on the right.

“These are free entry places,” Leo said. “There’s a lot of rumours going round that if you go through that door, you’ve got to pay. That’s not right.

“This building was built for everyone, and especially for people who are using the rail trail.”

He said people could come in, sit down and have a cup of coffee and a biscuit, and visit the Fossilarium, all for free.

However,  there was an entry fee to enter the art gallery and fossil museum where visitors can view 18 large information wall panels and eight video screens.

Leo paid tribute to the museum’s patrons, John Bryce and Col Pearen (who donated the land), the tireless work of volunteers, and the many people who had assisted with the project, including architect Peter Latemore, tourism marketer Julie Cullen, and the three women who had organised the art displays in the gallery, Robyn Dower, Di Woodall and Marie Rutledge.

He also thanked the artists who had worked on the external murals – Lee Porter, Tracie Sawrey and Carolyn Summers – and his wife Glenda, who had repeatedly applied for grants to get the building constructed.

Guest speakers at the opening included Graham Potter, chair of the Australian Fossil Mammals Sites (Riversleigh section), and former Deputy CEO of the Queensland Museum.

Graham said the Riversleigh (Qld) and Naracoorte (SA) fossil sites were declared World Heritage Areas in 1994.

Stressing the importance of the Murgon fossils, Graham said there had been originally three sites put up to UNESCO for listing, the third being Murgon but “for a number of reasons”, World Heritage listing had not gone ahead.

However, it had remained a very important site.

Graham praised the Murgon community for their extraordinary efforts to create “an amazing experience like this”.

Acting Mayor Gavin Jones said the building was going to be a massive asset for the whole South Burnett.

“Murgon, you should be very proud of yourselves,” he said.

He congratulated Leo, Glenda and all the volunteers.

Creative Country Association (CCA) president Richard O’Neill OAM said it was hard to believe this day had finally arrived.

“In the early 1980s, Professor Mike Archer and his colleagues became interested in some fossils found in a district near Murgon as a result of farmers ploughing the fields and raking up chunks of turtle and crocodile fossils,” Richie said.

“Everyone was amazed when the tests showed that the clay and bones were 55 million years old, hence the name of the building.”

He said the fossils found at Murgon included connections to the world’s oldest songbirds, the oldest Australian marsupials and the only known fossils of the leiopelmatid frog outside of New Zealand.

“Other fossils found were large turtles and crocodiles, bats, several types of marsupials, snakes and fish,” Richie said.

He said, unfortunately, Murgon did not capitalise on this at the time but Glenda had kept the dream alive.

Richie joined with Member for Wide Bay Llew O’Brien to cut the ribbon to officially open the building.

With Llew’s assistance, the group received a $1.594 million grant in June 2020 from the Federal Government’s “Building Better Regions Fund” to start construction.

Then in November 2021, CCA received a $60,000 grant from the Foundation For Rural and Regional Renewal’s “Tackling Tough Times Together” fund to go towards the fit out of the building.

Related articles:

Member for Wide Bay Llew O’Brien said it was a tremendous facility which would serve generations to come … he praised the “love of Murgon”, saying Leo Geraghty and Richie O’Neill had put their heart and soul into the project

Murgon resident and museum patron Col Pearen donated the land for the building

Richie O’Neill OAM with Jim Adcock, from Sellwood Constructions, which erected the building
Artists Robyn Dower and Diane Woodall … part of the team which stepped in at the last minute to organise the gallery’s art display
Glenda Geraghty, who toiled on the funding applications, with fellow volunteers Fiona Jaensch and Jenny Coombes
Graham Potter, chair of the Australian Fossil Mammals Sites (Riversleigh section), explained the significance of the Murgon fossil site
Acting Mayor Gavin Jones paid tribute to the hard work of all the volunteers who had made the project possible
Creative Country Association president Richard O’Neill OAM detailed the long journey to bring the museum to reality
Richie O’Neill and Llew O’Brien cut the ribbon to officially open the museum and art gallery


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