Shear Outback was officially opened on Australia Day, Saturday 26th January, 2002.
The official opening was carried out by Kay Hull, the Federal Member for Riverina.
There were an estimated 3,000 people in attendance for the opening ceremony.
An easy-to-read transcript of this article appears below the picture.
The above page has been reproduced with permission from The Riverine Grazier, Hay, N.S.W.
Reflections of a Rambling Rocket
We all have dreams. They are
free and can't be disputed, nor taxed.
John Glassford had a dream - to see the Shearers of Australia properly acknowledged. After years as a wool classer, John put his dream to the people of Lockhart who said good idea but we want a lake. An article appeared in 'The Land' in 1997 about John's dream and on October 2 1997, he addressed 100 interested citizens in Hay. He came through the enterprise and determination of local Sally Smith which was an initiative that will be acknowledged forever.
At the meeting a steering committee was formed to investigate the possibilities of such a venture. The areas looked at were the results of similar ventures: a general study of traffic flows through Hay: and competition in the region. Assistance came from the Longreach Stockman's Hall of Fame and the Port of Echuca, and from many NSW government instrumentalities. At the second meeting one month later, we decided to have a go, so the steering committee with a few changes and led by Ken Munn became the committee proper.
THE EARLY DAYS
No money and no plans. Just ideas. We needed a business plan. It was to cost about $10,000. One of the committee was Colleen Potter, who used her considerable skills to attract a grant of $5,000 from Harry Woods, NSW Minister for Tourism and Local Government. Not without a hiccup an opposition member took him to task for not making the grant, so Harry delayed the announcement for three weeks. Fortunately we were already aware that we had the money. The joys of politics! The generosity of the Black family of 'Uardry' and the Hay Business and redevelopment Group was a great help. we were away!
THE BUSINESS PLAN
It was mid-1998 and we needed to decide what the project need3ed, and also to assist in the production of the Business Plan. On a cold July afternoon 73 people gathered to discuss how, when, where and why. The gathering slit into groups of eight or less, and we gave them 30 minutes on each subject. Such was the enthusiasm for the task that what was designed to take 2 hours, took 4! Many similar exercises end up being a 'good idea at the time', but the findings of that meeting became our bible and have only been altered to suit financial imperatives. One of the controversial subjects was the location of the project. The majority was for the site chosen, but there were, and are still, those who wanted the project built north of the river so visitors would have to come through the town. My own view is that it didn't matter where the site was - success would depend on marketing. The site chosen was the only strategically sensible area.
Ian Farlow from Wagga compiled the Business Plan and he spent considerable time in Hay interviewing many people; he analysed traffic flows to the point that we knew that of the estimated 750,000 bodies travelling the Sturt Highway annually and the 350,000 on the Cobb and Mid-Western Highways only around 70,000 stayed overnight and of those only around 10% were tourists. We knew the numbers were there but Hay was not regarded as a stop-over place. Our objective was very clear. We had to make them stop! many people regarded the enormous as being a gold mine - Hay's retail community hasn't gained much at all over the years from the travelling public.
The business plan pulled no punches. we needed something good enough to encourage the 'empty nesters' to stop in Hay, we had to sell it to them, and it had to be good enough for them to leave Hay happy, comfortable and thinking about it. Even that wasn't sufficient to make the project viable in the long term. Clearly we had to hold 'Special Events' several times each year or we could end up like other ventures which rely on voluntary labour to keep the doors open. Our own investigations since have this up.
THE MONEY TRAIL
we were working on raising funds - daily cash was being raised by our wonderful volunteers through the book stall, raffles, and the Op-Shop, but the big bikkies had us stumped. Enter Noel Hicks MP, who made us aware of the Federal Fund. Noel was extremely helpful in getting our application on the table, and it is now history that we received $4.663 million. The were many conditions attached to the Grant which meant progress was slow. I believe that was a good thing as the decisions made were by and large good ones. So we were on the way or were we?
Slow progress was frustrating but the hay Department of Public Works and Services as Project Managers and the expertise of manager John Hall soon had things moving - uncertain ground for many but the DPWS experience sidestepped the potholes and we were soon able to prioritise everything so that once dollar values were added we know how far we could go. About half-way as it turned out! It was also the first 'public' appearance of our Project Director Sara Hector who fortuitously for us had come to Hay as local chemist Michael Japp's bride. The work load was increasing dramatically and as volunteers we were struggling. we couldn't have chosen a better person for the job. Sara's workload has been extreme yet she has coped, put up with the brickbats, pulled the Board into gear when required, and without doubt has done a wonderful job. her passion for the job is unbounded.
THE REAL WORK
What could we afford to build? we had secured the 'Murray Downs' wool shed from Swan Hill - a wonderful building of sawn red gum timber. The purchase price was minimal but the dismantling, packing and transport was just a bit more and the deadline to move it occurred before the first Grant payments came in. We were supported by our Hay Shire Council so the job went ahead. The Council has been extremely supportive since the project started, and recently have agreed to allocate funds to the project on an annual basis. we need other wool sheds and in particular one in the Lockhart area - 24 stand cathedral of round pine timber.
It would have been a magnificent building to have but the cost of moving and rebuilding would mean we did nothing else. The other shed was at 'Apsley' in the Gunbar region near Hay - a little gem of 4 stands built over 100 years ago. The Lugsdin family gave us the shed and it remains on that property until funds are available to do things with it.
The cost of moving any larger shed told us that the only way to achieve a proper museum and archival centre was with a new building. Paul Birkemeier and Associates of Sydney won the contract and Paul's imaginative and striking building raised a few eyebrows during its construction. It is designed maximise natural weather conditions for both heating and cooling, and the 65 metre southern verandah is large enough to handle the Sydney Symphony Orchestra which one day may happen. The Hall of Fame and museum exhibitions also went to tender with Banyon Wood Sydney getting the job. One problem was becoming apparent. The offers of memorabilia came in thick and fast since the project was announced. It has struck a raw nerve in the Australian psyche as many people said what a shame this wasn't done earlier. That's a maybe - earlier the time possibly wasn't right. We had lost much of the shearers' history because shearers weren't writers - they were doers. However, many were poets and through a considerable collection, we have their history in verse. Back to the problem. Advise from several museum experts was that we had to learn to say No! A solid collection policy evolved and from that we have been able to keep the collection under control.
On 26 September 1999 the first sod was turned by Prime Minister John Howard who spent a day in the district. Serious works commenced in October, 2000 with the realignment of the Sturt Highway. The site was surveyed then local earth moving contractors built the levee bank high enough to withstand a once in a 100- year flood. This was the first of many times that businesses donated much of their time, equipment and labour to the project which allowed us to do other things better. The list of 'donations in kind' is too large to enumerate, but it is important to acknowledge the support from the start of three business houses - Gardner's, Perrot's, and the former Riverine Grazier partnership. They 'carried the can' until we became self sufficient. God bless'em.
The main building contract was let to Ken McDonald of Deniliquin, whilst Craig Windsor re-erected the 'Murray Downs' woolshed that he had pulled down 2 years previously. The boundary fence was constructed by the Magpies Rugby League Club. Hay DPWS became Construction Managers and at times there were 40 people working on the site - no small job to manage and not without its headaches. The job was completed on time to allow the exhibition designers and landscaping team to operate. External work will take time but will become a typical Riverina Homestead - woolshed complex. The shearers' huts have had to wait. Education is an important part of the project and to give school children the total experience the huts have been identified as essential in the future.
THE OTHER NICE BITS
The windmill and tank have already been eye-catchers. they aren't there for looks alone - they are doing a job. They will recycle all rainwater from buildings and site drainage throughout the landscaped areas. The dam is also equipped with fire fighting and watering systems for the arena and garden. Local windmill expert Tim Matt found the mill at Cassilis (NSW), purchased, transported and re-erected it on site - a lasting icon along with the two buildings. The Bennet wagon is unique. Geoff Little from Maldon (Victoria) offered us the wagon in 1998 but we had no money. Our Federation Grant wouldn't cover it, but Geoff found sponsorship from his region and with a team of volunteers and horses to Ganmain (NSW) where it had been used as a grain wagon in 1925. He continued to Hay arriving here in October 2001 at the 'Murray Downs' shed for the Centenary of Federation breakfast on October 28. The wagon then took pride of place in the street parade that day. The Wagon is on loan to Shear Outback until Geoff's when it will become our property. A truly magnificent gesture on top of a truly magnificent feat.
The acquisition of the Daniel Handpiece collection has been a highlight. To assemble such a collection to-day would be impossible. George Daniel had an agency career in the Riverina and handpieces were his passion. we were lucky enough to again be in the right place at the right time.
In the right place at the right time more than once. Being prepared to take on John Glassford's dream. We would still be conducting chook raffles for the Federation Fund.. The Year of the Outback has just commenced. A good partnership. The recognition of inland tourism as a business.
To the Hay Shire Council again and Australian Wool Innovations - both major sponsors. To Tourism NSW, Festivals Australia, Riverina Naturally for their support for our opening day and beyond. To all our Members no matter at what level, and again to our marvellous volunteers.
It has been a long intense job supported by so many. The 110 people aged from 5 to 85 planting over 500 trees and shrubs on Nation Tree Planting Day leaves a lasting impression. Many of the kids will see 'their trees' in their twilight years and be satisfied that they too have contributed. The total of volunteer hours put into Shear Outback over the past four years would only be exceeded by those selfless fire fighters.
Thank you one and all.
Chairman, Shear Outback.