Community stories: 24 April 2023
On Djiru Country
In far north Queensland, 150 km south of Cairns, the Mission Beach Historical Society (MBHS) is a fledgling association – two years young and dreaming big.
Last month our QLD programs manager visited the MBHS and invited them to write a story to let everyone know about their great work to curate a historical photographic exhibition.
Before the advent of the MBHS in late 2020, Mission Beach had no effective means of making histories and images easily accessible to residents and visitors of this region.
For the two last years, MBHS members have captured and documented some of the Mission Beach histories, having made a bright start with that endeavour. The society’s growing challenge was to find effective ways to share and exhibit MBHS collections. Being without a museum or a building, MBHS relies heavily on online presence and displays. Despite such hurdles, a range of interesting and innovative projects have been undertaken. One of these projects was to present a photographic exhibition.
In 2022, MBHS partnered with Community for Coastal & Cassowary Conservation Inc to receive an $8,925 Strengthening Rural Communities grant, funded by the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation, to develop a photographic exhibition ‘Echo of the Past – Historical photographs from Mission Beach, 1890s – 1950s’ and present a series of historical photographs and Djiru cultural objects – coinciding with the anniversary of the 1918 cyclone which devastated the area.
The exhibition project aimed to facilitate cultural connection and transmission of culture of and with Traditional Owners through community engagement, cultural expression and on Country experiences.
The exhibition project was led by MBHS president, Dr Valerie Boll, anthropologist and curator, who worked with Djiru Traditional Owner, Elder and artist Leonard Andy and the Warrangburra Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC – PBC, to source and document Djiru history and photographs. Mission Beach residents were also able to bring in old photographs to be scanned and used to illustrate stories that had been researched by MBHS members. The provided material was then collated.
Like many plans during the last few years, the start of the project was delayed due to COVID. Sadly, the project was also put on pause in the first half of 2022 because of ‘Sorry Business’. Another hurdle for the MBHS volunteers to overcome was the lack of adequate IT equipment. Regardless of this impediment, the efforts of the team came together, and the opening day approached fast.
An enthusiastic crowd (over 100 people) gathered on the 10March for the opening of the exhibition ‘Echo of the Past’, at the Art Print Frame Gallery and was enjoyed by the wider community until the exhibition close earlier this month.
A smaller version of the show is now on display at the Mission Beach library and there are plans for the exhibition to travel around the region for the rest of the year.