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Imagine fertile lands covered in dense Brigalow scrub, bottles trees and prickly pear; Low ranges ringing the horizon. The subtropical and sub-humid climate, with variable rainfall, provides relatively pleasant conditions year round. At the junction of two water courses, The Dawson River and Castle creek is a fertile junction abundant in nourishment from both the land and water, we were told by a local elder this was a special place to the Wulli Wulli people. Being the traditional owners of this land; their country covering an approximate 8300sq km area, they would have fished and hunted porcupine, living off the banks of the Dawson River and within nearby caves. Significant cultural and burial sites including caves with a four fingered hand print and bora grounds (a male initiation site) exist in the local area where many artifacts, such as grinding stones, rock axes, and flake and core stones continue to be unearthed, the local elders their custodians…..
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Exploring history, community and a shared built identity.CLICK THE IMAGE for larger format image of the whole hand-drawn exhibition.
• Traditional Owners = wulli wulli People
• Brigalow belt south biogeographic region
• Mean annual temps; H - 28.3 L - 13.7
• Mean annual rainfall; 671mm
• Population; 438
• Elevation 142 m
• The pub is one of the only two pubs in Australia owned and operated by the community
• We stole the double skin tent idea from the 1900’s settlers and used it across the continent
• in 1922 Theodore was to become the administrative center of a pilot irrigation scheme for the country.
Collected from the reactive black soil at the junction of the Dawson River and Castle Creek which flow against each other after one of Dawson river changed directions.
From a station called “Old Walloon” which has an 1850’s timber slab hut slowly falling apart on it.
Found at Theodore petrol station.
Found at “Old Walloon” station this is a traditional indigenous medical plant and is credited with the ability to cure cancer.
CLICK ON THE IMAGE to hear our chat with Keith about Theodore, he has only lived there since he was 3…
Keith and Liz adopted us for our week stay in Theodore. They were generous enough to drive us around, even letting us jump on the school bus that they run and go for a drive to the next couple of towns. Liz’s amazing Christmas cake got us through the late nights we were working! Thanks to you two incredible locals!
This amazing bridge was made by Italian immigrant (we were told). Note the massive local timbers - not so easy to get any more.
We always carried a notebook with us. We found this invaluable not just to document what we saw, but to actually take some of it in, by having to really study what we were drawing, we found understanding was easier. A benefit we didn’t see coming was that people seem to open up more when you earnestly try and record their knowledge.
The current owner of Old Walloon would love to preserve the incredible slab hut he has on his property and has talked to heritage groups to seewhat needs to be done. The restrictions they require in order to accept it makes it unrealistic and costly for him to do this. Just one of the complexities of heritage we would come across.
Theodore was a pilot irrigation scheme where set house designs were to be built by the settlers who took up the leases. The Dawson Folk museum in Theodore has some great photos from this time.
Before building a house settlers were allowed to live in a canvas tent. Here you can see the double fly used to reduce heat by having a ventilated gap between the roof and ceiling. We adapted this approach across the country for our own tent.
Local cattle stations, such as Camboon station, relied heavily on Indigenous labour during the war years and, as a result, enjoy a long and cooperative relationship with the local Wulli Wulli people.
It was the legacy of this station that in 2015, the Wulli Wulli people were recognized as traditional owners of the land with their 14 year native title claim successful due to the perpetual line of ancestry of local Lexie Beasley (nee. Dodd). Her great great grandparents resided here and working on the Camboon station since 1919, she talked to us of her long history with the place and much to our astonishment showed us records of ancestors being ‘removed’ to missions under The Aboriginal Protection and Preservation act at the request of fellow white citizens. This was often for not much more than drinking alcohol, often leaving children and family to the care of other family.
Many buildings in Theodore project to the street the way they would like to be perceived. The parapet is crucial to this. Whilst many early buildings were stock standard sheds they spend their time and money on the street front to make an aspirational shopfront.
We were lucky enough to be lent a flat for the week by the amazing Liz and Keith Shoecraft. Here we are using the glass fridge shelves and a phone to make a “light-box” to trace a map.
We held our exhibition in the wonderful Dawson Folk Museum that has a huge amount of history and information about the town and surrounding area. Theodores community is something to behold, we felt incredibly welcomed valued and almost adopted into this town. Thanks Theodore. Our exhibition was about the aspirational buildings of Theodore and how that has helped to galvanise the town.
A 90 y/o local telling Bobbie that she had the hair cut first. We came to realise how valuable long-term locals are to understand a place. There is huge value in being in one spot for a long time.
It was raining in the afternoon we camped out, picking our campsite very carefully. It was a good thing we did as we weathered the tail end of cyclone Debbie that night. Wild wind and rain. In the morning we were on an island, surrounded by water (good picking). The next few rivers were in flood. and rising!
With pushbikes and a tent you can become invisible quite quickly. There is something comforting about sleeping near the ground too.