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27 December 2007


DAVID STRANG: Well, here we are in Winton, in outback western Queensland. Winton is very famous for a number of things. Foremost, I guess, is 'Waltzing Matilda' and the heritage linked with that. Banjo Paterson wrote the words to 'Waltzing Matilda' while out here in western Queensland in 1895. Yeah, and 'Waltzing Matilda' was first performed in the North Gregory Hotel here in Winton at a gala dinner, or banquet dinner, in 1895. The song took a few years to get a hold. Remembering that he wrote it in 1895, and it wasn't till the First World War when the Billy Tea company put it on their tea packets, and it ended up over in the trenches in France, I think, mainly. And the diggers over there took a liking to it, and when they all came home at the end of the First World War was when it first got a go on in Australia. And it just grew like wildfire from there. There's also the Qantas linkage. The company was actually formed here, in the Winton Club, which still stands today. The building is still here. In 1995 we had the centenary of 'Waltzing Matilda' here in Winton. On the site over there now there was already the Qantilda Museum, which was run by the Winton District Historical Society, 'Qantilda' being a combination of 'Qantas' and 'Matilda', of course. And after the celebrations in '95, it was felt that we should have some living monument to 'Waltzing Matilda'. Tourism was the way forward for a lot of these outback towns. So, I guess, it was auspiced under the shire council and it grew from there. It opened in 1998, three years later. I think we're pretty proud of our heritage. And, yeah, most of the businesses in town like to keep that heritage going, along with the Waltzing Matilda Centre here. Searle's is quite an attraction in its own right. There's not many of these old kind of general stores left now.

RICHARD SEARLE: In 1953 I came here. Introduced a little bit of men's working gear, industrial clothing. And from there on, we've just expanded and kept on going. My brother joined me a few years later, and he's stuck with me ever since.

DAVID STRANG: You want a pair of trousers, they put the ladder up on the wall and just pull the bundle down and untie the string and you select your trousers out of that lot. And then they tie them back up again and put them back up. It's run by the Searles family. Three generations there now. Yeah, it's a very quaint old store. Lots of treasure troves in there.

RICHARD SEARLE: We get caught out sometimes.

DAVID STRANG: We've got the musical fence, which has been here for a few years now. I guess, when you think about a fence, it's got strings in it just like a guitar. And if you tune them up, you can play a tune on them. And that's what we have. Arno, he's one of our town characters. He's a German opal miner. Came out here in 1949, and has spent most of his life opal mining, but in his spare time, he builds this magnificent wall around his property here in town, and it's got everything in it. It's probably one of the best-known tourist attractions we have, because every TV program that comes through town does a thing on Arno's Wall. Huge part of our economy now. We could not exist now without tourism. Well, we're very fortunate that we're on this main highway, linking Brisbane, Sydney, right through to Darwin. We're very fortunate in that light. But the fact that we have so much history and we have such a good community here that preserves that history, it's on show for everyone. Word of mouth is our greatest attribute.