Birdsville's frontier justice set to become latest tourist attraction

Heritage-listed Birdsville courthouse ready to tell stories of the past

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The western side of the refurbished Birdsville courthouse, looking south west. Pictures supplied.

The western side of the refurbished Birdsville courthouse, looking south west. Pictures supplied.

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When Birdsville's Court House was built between 1888 and 1890, it was an outpost for justice on colonial Queensland's desert frontier, where droving stock between Boulia and Adelaide was one of the main occupations.

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When Birdsville's Court House was built between 1888 and 1890, it was an outpost for justice on colonial Queensland's desert frontier, where droving stock between Boulia and Adelaide was one of the main occupations.

Nowadays tourism is the far south west town's main business, and one of the oldest buildings still in use in the town is set to become the newest addition to its tourist attractions.

According to Diamantina Shire Council funding and economic development officer Richard Cooley, the refurbishment of the heritage-listed building had been identified as a valuable addition to the story of Birdsville by the state government and police authorities as well as the council since 2012, but was reliant on funding and approval processes to make it happen.

Thanks to a grant from the state Department of Local Government, Racing and Multicultural Affairs, the $200,000 project will now allow the building that has weathered many a horrific outback climatic event to share its stories of ghosts and law enforcement.

Holograms will give visitors a taste of outback justice, being charged and tried for an offence on presentation of a warrant card they've purchased as their entry.

As well as allowing people to be directly engaged in judicial re-enactments in the courtroom, the interactive visual system will tell stories of the courthouse's historical past and the district's forefathers.

The hologram project will have an audio-visual screen located in the fireplace.

The hologram project will have an audio-visual screen located in the fireplace.

The pre-Federation border post of Birdsville (originally called Diamantina Crossing) was one of 14 established to maintain tariff walls between the colonies, and its courthouse was designed by Queensland's Department of Works.

It was built on the police reserve and was part of a complex including a police station, lockup, tracker's quarters, and horse yards, although camels had also been used for police work since 1886.

Like most other structures built in Birdsville when the town began, it's made from local sandstone as no timber was available and transport costs were too high to import building materials.

The town's structures also had to withstand extreme climatic conditions, such as in 1904 when the police station building also constructed on the site was "completely wrecked" in a violent storm.

It's now one of only three surviving masonry buildings in Birdsville, the others being the former Royal Hotel built around 1883, and the iconic Birdsville Hotel, constructed around 1884.

The courthouse kitchen area showing where the old wood stove sat, and how the interior stone walls were made.

The courthouse kitchen area showing where the old wood stove sat, and how the interior stone walls were made.

It was added to the Queensland Heritage Register in October 1992.

Mr Cooley said the refurbishing work was being done by council's building maintenance team, and 40 per cent of the funding had come from the Diamantina council.

The old jail would also be part of the attraction, plus the tracker's hut.

"The end result is that the town now has this wonderful site refurbished to its former glory so it can continue to tell its stories for another 100 years," Mr Cooley said.

Once the hologram infrastructure fitment has been completed, which is expected by the end of August, council tourism staff will then be planning an internal fit-out of the site for it to be ready for a full opening in time for the 2021 tourist season.

Read more: Birdsville Lodge opening marks remote tourism boost

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