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It was a word from a friend that found us one sunny Thursday heading west from Maryborough on the Maryborough-Biggenden Road in search of a museum in the small town of Brooweena. If my friend’s ecstatic enthusiasm could be taken as any sort of measure, this museum rated as a ‘must see’. It was our love of history and an innate curiosity that set our course. The half-hour trip through scenic countryside was relaxing. Our windows were down, radio blaring and our German Shepherd’s head was hanging out the back window taking in all the new sights and sounds. The day could not have started out any better. We had little idea of what was yet to come.

So enjoyable was the drive, we almost missed our destination. The road we travelled did not go through Brooweena but straight past it with little fanfare. Thank goodness we were told to look out for the old wagon on the right side of the road, because the hours after turning into that small road to the middle of downtown Brooweena were not only interesting, engaging and educational, they were also fun. It soon became very clear that Brooweena did not just have an interesting museum, Brooweena was an interesting museum.

The town of Brooweena is small, but the heart and sense of community that radiates from within its 200 residents is strong. The community’s strength and pride are evident in the way it had so diligently catalogued and preserved its history – from simple farm equipment and tools, variety of wagons and their associated equipage through to the relocation of a small settler’s hut from a surrounding farm to the towns centre. Too fragile to move in one piece, the hut had been disassembled plank by plank. Each section was numbered and then painstakingly rebuilt. The original roof was unfortunately too rotten to save, but the townspeople learned how to make traditional shingles and recreated the roof to perfection, even to the extent of ageing the timber before installing.

The hut is furnished as it would have been all those years ago – simply. With its double bed, cot, table and chairs and shelving, the hut is a true eye opener. You cannot help but compare this humble home – its size no bigger than a small bedroom in one of today’s standard homes – to our most typical home of today. It represents a time when wants were minimal and needs were simple.

The town is full of these treasures. Historical wooden buildings make up the small town and vividly remind me of two of my most favourite school trips: ‘Old Sydney Town’ and ‘Australiana Village’. After 40 years, both excursions are still memorable. My visit to Brooweena made me think how lucky the children of the Fraser Coast are to have their very own ‘memorable excursion’ within their own region. The town houses the original Woocoo District Council Chambers, a fully set up school room, a fully working blacksmith shop and dairy, and a train station with an original wooden train carriage pulled up to the platform.

There are 12 historical buildings to see within the small town. All of these are filled with original furnishings, books, costumes, artwork, equipment and are like taking a step into the past through Doctor Who’s Tardis. If visitor numbers are high enough or a specific event is planned, the town will arrange a blacksmith exhibition, with a smithy coming in to stoke the fires and show his trade. The dairy also puts on exhibitions with children invited to share in the experience of churning milk to butter using original equipment. The barn has all manner of saddles, tools and beautifully maintained wagons and carriages.

All those things that do not belong to a specific place have been displayed to perfection in the actual building titled the Brooweena Museum. The museum is packed with interesting items, from war memorabilia including medals, certificates of valour, one of the first limb prosthetics – an arm replacement from the First World War, armaments and a range of kettles through the ages. The museum houses photographic and sound equipment, clothing, telecommunication equipment including telegraph and fax machines and a whole selection of telephones.

There is even a full original set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica – Google for a time before the internet! There truly is too much history to see in Brooweena for me to catalogue it all in this article. It is not something which words can express. The rich history of Brooweena is something that needs to be visited and seen for it to be truly appreciated. The town also needs your help. Since the amalgamation of its council of the Woocoo Shire with that of the Fraser Coast Council, Brooweena has lost the funding it needs to keep its treasures safe. It has only been through town citizens generosity, the hard work of volunteers and the monies received from the museum’s $5 entry charge that has ensured that this historical wonder has been maintained. Lead by the museum’s committee, the small community is responsible for ensuring there are enough funds to pay the rates, insurance and all other upkeep expenses. Volunteers help maintain the town. The town is currently faced with a rabbit infestation which is severely threatening the foundation of one of their historical buildings.

The museum is open every second Sunday from 2pm to 4pm. Visits and excursions are also welcome by appointment. The $5 entry fee is waived if you coordinate your visit with the museum market day on the 4th Sunday every three months. You can visit their Facebook page to find out the date of the next market.

Brooweena is a safe place to take the kids for a day out. The near-empty streets are a great space for children to ride bikes and the picnic ground is lovely place to sit and enjoy lunch. The rest… the history, the sites…. they will speak for themselves!

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