After three years of planning and two years in development, the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame and Outback Heritage Centre has swung open its doors on a whole swag of new immersive and interactive experiences.
The April 1 re-opening was the culmination of a $15 million transformation of the iconic tourism destination, which has seen its galleries and exhibitions completely overhauled.
According to Tony Holzner, the co-founder and creative director of 'cultural inventors' Art Processors, who were in charge of the redesign, it has overwhelmingly succeeded in capturing the imagination of travellers to western Queensland looking for a more authentic and meaningful outback experience.
''We have completely transformed the centre's permanent galleries, pushing the boundaries of storytelling and experiential design to uncover and celebrate the many diverse voices of regional Australia," he said.
''This is just the starting point - our technology platform will allow the Hall of Fame to add new voices and perspectives as they continue to reach out to regional communities, making sure there's always new stories for visitors to come back to."
The centrepiece of the new galleries is a location-aware immersive audio guide integrated with the exhibits to put the visitor in the centre of the story with the aim of creating a richer, more personal and meaningful experience.
The new galleries include the Welcome Station, an interactive motion-controlled experience featuring some very excitable kelpies who greet visitors as they enter the main gallery space, even shaking the hand of the patient visitor.
Also included are outback perspectives from the voices of stockmen, stockwomen, drovers, shearers, pioneers, pastoralists, bush poets, hawkers, boxers, flying doctors, inventors, and a crazy horse named Curio.
A major new exhibit, Gone Drovin' takes visitors down the legendary travelling stock routes that drovers took to get their livestock to market, featuring tales of instinct and skill, grit and determination, mateship and luck.
There is an interactive new experience for kids - a fast-paced treasure hunt game to keep them occupied so their parents can explore the galleries at leisure.
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ASHOF CEO Lloyd Mills said they had been absolutely delighted with the response from travellers in the past week.
"It's exciting to take the story forward and to be able to provide a gamified experience for children and families, enabling us to share the history of the bush across future generations," he said.
Since its opening by Queen Elizabeth II in 1988, the Stockman's Hall of Fame has welcomed over one million visitors through its doors.
The latest redevelopment was made possible by a $15m grant from the federal government's Building Better Regions Fund, announced in December 2017.
That follows $5m from the Community Development Grants program that enabled the construction of a multifunction 300-seat Outback Entertainment Centre, plus a gallery devoted to the role played by Aboriginal stockmen and women, and the restoration of Dr Yates Cottage, opened in October 2016 with a concert by country music star Lee Kernaghan.
The centre is now open seven days a week but online bookings are essential.
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Based at Blackall, CW Qld, where I've raised a family, run Merino sheep and beef cattle, and helped develop a region - its history, tourism, education and communications.
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