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Home > Travelogues > 2009 Travelogues Index > Barcaldine

Barcaldine: Birthplace of the Australian labour movement    Jericho: A tiny town with a tiny record

Tree of Knowledge with the railway station in the background

 

Beside the tree is a monument in the shape of a pair of shears. The stated aim of the monument was to: 'Honour the men and women of the Labour movement who congregated in this area and, through their courage, determination and dedication to the principles, ideals and objectives of the labour movement, played a leading role in the formation of the Labor Party and further spearheaded the many reforms that resulted in the vastly improved way of life for the Australian people generally.'

 

The plaque on the front of the monument has the faces and names of the thirteen gaoled strike leaders. It is interesting to note that a number of these went on to become significant political figures: William Fothergill returned to become Chairman of Barcaldine Shire Council; William Hamilton became President of the Queensland Legislative Council and George Taylor became the Speaker of the West Australian Legislative Council.

Extract from Sydney Morning Herald

Barcaldine was central to the shearers’ strike of 1891; the events of which lead to the formation of the Australian Labor Party and the amalgamation of Unions.   By 1889 Queensland shearers and pastoral workers were organised into unions.  To counter this, Pastoralists formed the Pastoral Employers Union and set about having shearers sign a contract of free labour, aimed at employing them free of Union rules.  The shearers went on strike.  From dissent at Logan Downs Station near Clermont the strike spread and Barcaldine became a central point.  Pastoralists brought in non union labour under the protection of Police and Troopers. Retaliation took place with reports of crops and woolsheds being set alight. Strikers marched at Barcaldine but the colonial secretary ordered the arrest of the union leaders.   

 

The failure of the strike action prompted the labour movement to turn its attention to the pursuit of political power. T.J. Ryan was elected to the Queensland parliament in 1892, becoming the first labour organisation representative to be elected to a parliament anywhere in the world. This led to the formation of the Australian Labor Party and Australia's first political party.  The success of the unified Australian Labour Party led to the formation of the two party system as we know it today.

 

The Ghost Gum by the Railway Station became a symbol of the strike and subsequent events and known as the Tree of Knowledge.  The tree died in 2006 # and has now been replaced with an artificial tree on the original trunk as a Memorial to the historic events. 

 

“C” Pattern Windmill

 

This Windmill, Serial Number 765, was built by Sidney Williams & Co of Rockhampton in 1917. It has a wheel diameter of 27 feet (approximately eight metres) and is direct acting with a stroke of 15 inches (38 centimetres). It will pump with wind speeds as low as three kilometres per hour.

 

This windmill was originally erected at Back Creek, East of Barcaldine, one of the first free flowing bores in Queensland.

From signage at the site

Workers Heritage Centre glimpsed behind the hotel in the main street of Barcaldine

 

 

 

The Alice River just upstream from the Lloyd Jones Weir campground

As we headed towards Barcaldine from Blackall, open grasslands changed to woodlands.  South of Barcaldine, we went to the Lloyd Jones Weir where a dusty campground is alongside a small weir on the Alice River.  This now disused weir was constructed in the 1950s to supply water to a few properties to irrigate vegetable crops and orchards.   We selected a site in ‘thong avenue’ where a small tree was adorned with a selection of old thongs. 

 

Tree of Knowledge Memorial

 

The tree of knowledge was a Eucalyptus Papuana (Ghost Gum) that stood on this site until its death in 2006. 

 

During the 1891 National Shearers’ Strike, the tree was silent witness to the momentous struggle between Shearers and Pastoralists over wages and working conditions. 

 

These and subsequent events played an integral part in the formation of the labour union movement, the establishment of the Australian Labor Party and the formation of the Pastoralist Union.

 

A full interpretation of this history is provided at the Australian Workers’ Heritage Centre.

 

This Memorial was erected by Barcaldine Regional Council to permanently recognise the events of 1891 and the idealistic desire to create a better Australia.

 

This Memorial marks Queensland’s Q150 sesquicentennial celebrations and was formally opened by Queensland Premier, the Hon. Anna Bligh MP on 2 May 2009 in the company of Parliamentarians from throughout Australia and a wide cross section of the Australian people.  It was made possible through the generous support of many including; The Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government, the Queensland Government’s Q150 Legacy Infrastructure Program and various Queensland Government Departments and authorities, Barcaldine Regional Council.

From signage at the site

The Workers Heritage Centre features a circular tent with displays amongst other features such as the Seat of Knowledge. 

 

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Next we go to Jericho, a tiny town on the banks of the Jordan Creek and south of Lake Galilee.  This tired looking town has a modern feature celebrating the Biblical town name.  The Crystal Trumpeters were constructed in 1988 to depict the Biblical story where the Israelites marched around the walls of Jericho for six days and on the seventh day blew their trumpets and the city walls collapsed.
 
The crystals symbolise various moments in the Old Testament such as the slavery in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the receiving of the Ten Commandments, the crossing of the River Jordan and the arrival in the Promised Land.
 
The Jericho Drive-In Theatre, built by the Council in 1969, holds only thrity cars plus seating for walk-ins and is perhaps the world's smallest operating drive-in theatre. Movies are held once a month. 

Near the windmill this monument and fountain commemorates the exploration work of the pioneers of the Great Artesian Basin.

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# What happened to the Tree of Knowledge?
This Ghost Gum, which was 200 to 250 years old, appears to have been poisoned in 2006.  This report dated 4th October 2006 fromThe Sydney Morning Herald tells the story.
Extract
The tree, in Barcaldine, Queensland, was declared dead this week after a vandal drenched it with pesticide earlier this year.