Just as the world-class airline Qantas started with an idea and lots of determination, so too did the museum honouring its founders.
On Friday evening a dinner was held in Longreach to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the organisation that is building a museum described as being on the world stage.
Over 60 people, travelling from as far afield as Sydney and the Gold Coast, gathered to pay tribute to the vision of founding chairman Jo Shannon and his supporters.
While noting that a whole range of people had contributed to its success, including members and museum visitors, Qantas Founders Memorial chairman John Vincent said the local community had backed it wholeheartedly.
“Tonight is particularly a tribute to the people who had the vision and believed it was possible,” he said. “When I look at this organisation I can’t help but think of the foundation of Qantas, which created something from essentially nothing.”
Inaugural treasurer John te Kloot regaled guests at dinner with memories from the organisation’s early days when there was not enough money in the bank account to get to the next meeting, to excursions south to board rooms and parliamentary offices to exhort support for the cause.
The movement started in 1988 at a public meeting in Longreach when the original hangar built by the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service in 1922 became available for public use.
Stage one of the museum was opened by then-Governor-General Sir William Deane on June 9, 1996 in the now-national-heritage-listed hangar, but Mr te Kloot said a lot of work took place took place behind the scenes before then, including the construction of a replica booking office in Longreach’s CBD, to establish a presence in the community and raise enough money to build something suitable to house the replica Avro 504K they’d received from Qantas.
“At all times we had Frith Fysh’s guiding principle before us, that the Avro was not going into a shoebox,” he said.
The organisation was fortunate in receiving a $110m grant from Queensland and federal governments under a heritage trails network grant scheme in 1999, with which it built stage two, the museum building housing many of its artefacts, including the replica Avro.
Alongside that are the airline’s first jet, a Boeing 707-138B short body, the first of its type and made specifically for Qantas, and a Boeing 747-200 jumbo jet.
Also in the museum collection are a Catalina PBY 6A, a former Qantas DC3, and a derelict Lockheed Super Constellation, still to be transported from the Philippines and restored.
Longreach Regional Council mayor Ed Warren told the gathering that tourism was a very important part of the local economy and as such it would be advocating alongside the museum for funds to bring the Super Constellation to Longreach, and for a cover for the aircraft parked in the sun.
“This is super critical to preserve them for future generations,” museum CEO Tony Martin said.
He also announced on the night that the Qantas Founders Museum had just entered into another five-year funding agreement with Qantas, worth $5 million.
“This will help us move ahead,” he said.