The words of Australian country music legend Lee Kernaghan were music to the ears of the directors and friends of the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame gathered in Longreach on Sunday for the opening of the new $2.5 million Outback Entertainment Centre.
“This facility is world-class, as good as it gets,” said Lee, who was presented with honorary life membership of the Hall of Fame at the opening function. “We play all round Australia, and to have something like this in outback Australia, it will bring a lot of great artists as well as equestrian events.”
ASHOF chairman David Brook likened the new addition to an oval at a school, a venue to show more of what the stockmen and women of Australia excel at, particularly sport and music.
“In seeking funding we said to the federal government, we need to showcase our outback heritage, particularly their skills,” he said.
The open-sided 60m long arena with tiered grandstand seating and a traditional timber homestead facade housing a bar and eating area, described by ASHOF CEO Lloyd Mills as a significant milestone in the ongoing story of the Hall of Fame, was built with federal money and was opened by Member for Maranoa, David Littleproud and Mr Brook.
Mr Littleproud congratulated ASHOF management for “doing the nation proud”.
“What you’ve achieved here is quite mind-blowing. You really have something to sell here,” he said.
It was a theme taken up by Longreach mayor Ed Warren who said the region was already fortunate in having tourism icons that were encouraging further investment and employment by locals.
“We now need to promote ourselves to be more recognised and encourage Australia to come and visit,” he said, adding that the Longreach Regional Council intended to work closely with the Hall of Fame as part of its strategy of having tourism as one of its economic pillars.
Fellow mayor Rob Chandler, recalling the vision of Hall of Fame founders such as his father Ranald Chandler and others, encouraged state and federal MPs to continue investing in infrastructure in the west.
“It’s been our biggest industry out here for the last couple of years and local government will work with you, because it gives us really nice communities to live in.”
The $5m Building our Future grant also enabled much-needed maintenance to take place to the 28-year-old Hall, and for an indigenous stockworkers display to be brought into being.
Mr Brook said the multi-purpose entertainment centre built on the Hall’s motto that it was more than just a museum.
“This is stage one today – we’ll be adding as funds become available to have a world-class equestrian centre.”
It will become the new home for Lachie Cossor’s Outback Stockman’s Show, which has attracted 25,000 visitors a year.
Mr Brook paid tribute to the vision of board member, the late Graeme Acton, whose wife Jennie was among the many dignitaries present, for his energy in enabling the funding, and for providing the blueprint for the final structure.