AUSTRALIAN RED CROSS STAFF AND VOLUNTEERS HAVE SAID GOODBYE TO THEIR CAIRNS BASE OF 50 YEARS. THE RED CROSS SHOP, OFFICES AND ACCOMMODATION CENTRE HAVE LONG BEEN A LOCAL LAND-MARK, ROUND BEHIND THE HOSPITAL, A SHORT WALK TO TOWN.
A Lake Street landmark
The Red Cross has been active in FNQ since the days of the First World War. Volunteers raised the funds to buy the house that became the first Red Cross HQ, a bit further down Lake St, in 1961. They remember a lot of cake sales, and some very generous supporters. The current site, across from the Cairns Base Hospital, opened in a couple of years later..
It’s been the Red Cross HQ in FNQ, a training centre, and a magnet for bargain hunters — with the Red Cross shop on-site. And it has an accommodation centre, providing beds for people transiting in and out of Cairns Base Hospital, most of them from remote areas of Cape York Peninsula.
On Friday November 25, staff and volunteers gathered to farewell the Lake St building. It’s to be knocked down, and a new centre will be built there over the next 18 months. It was a day for remembering the past and looking forward to the future.
CLICK THE AUDIO PLAYER TO HEAR STORIES OF LIFE WITH THE RED CROSS IN CAIRNS
RED CROSS VOLUNTEERS AT THE FAREWELL TO THE OLD LAKE ST BUILDING
QLD RED CROSS CHAIRMAN ALAN CLAYTON THANKS STAFF & VOLUNTEERS
YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO FAR IN FNQ BEFORE YOU’RE “OUT OF RANGE”. NO MOBILE PHONE SIGNAL, JUST STATIC ON THE CAR RADIO. THE KIDS CAN’T TWITTER, YOU CAN’T HEAR THE CRICKET ON THE ABC, AND WHAT WILL YOU DO IF THE CAR GIVES UP?
If you’re going into remote country, consider getting a two-way radio, either HF or UHF. A satellite phone is a good emergency back-up, but the call costs are way too high for more routine calls. There’s surprisingly good mobile phone coverage around some of the more remote FNQ towns, but only on one network and only for a few kms out from town.
As sparse as the current set-up is, it’s way better than ever before. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that people on Cape York got dialling telephones, about 40 years after the rest of Australia.
When you travel on Cape York Peninsula, you’ll get insights into communication remote-area style now and way back then. Mail used to come on pack horses, now much of it comes by air – small planes doing mail runs to land on bush strips and drop off the mail bags. Many telephones operate by radio link, people get their Internet by satellite, two-way radio is widely used.
Long before these things were invented, there was telegraph. A sort of 19th century text message system that relied on long stretches of cable strung from posts, along which electrical signals were sent in Morse Code. Short and long beeps, dots and dashes, were assigned to each letter of the alphabet. Messages could be sent over vast distances, as long as there was a telegraph line to send them on.
In the mid 1800s, colonial bosses in Brisbane felt the need for a means of communicating with Queensland’s remote and sparsely populated north. Surveyors explored a route to the top of Cape York and on to Thursday Island, in the Torres Strait. The Telegraph Line was built and fully operational by the mid 1870s. The present day road to the Tip largely follows the route of the Telegraph Line, although there’s nothing much left of the Line itself. It carried its last Morse message, a telegram to Thursday Island, in 1964. It was shut down in 1987 at age 100.
There were seven repeater stations along the Line, and some of those have survived. One of the key stations was at Moreton, on the banks of the Wenlock River. These days, Moreton is in the tourism business, offering accomodation, local tours and stories of the old days.
It’s a lovely spot, but like a lot of places on the Peninsula, it gets cut off during the wet season. The Wenlock River can rise up to ten metres above the road bridge. Even during the dry time, the river has some big sea creatures in it. Bull sharks and sting rays are regularly seen near the station, about 140 kms from the sea!
CLICK ON THE AUDIO PLAYER TO HEAR CATHY SHOW YOU AROUND MORETON TELEGRAPH STATION
TRAVELLING AROUND FNQ, YOU MEET A LOT MOSTS. MOST AMAZING, MOST REMOTE, BIGGEST, WETTEST. BRING YOUR CAMERA AND A GOOD SUPPLY OF ADJECTIVES.
One of the must-see mosts is Bramwell Station – Australia’s most northerly cattle station. And one of the loveliest places I’ve had the good fortune to see on my travels. It’s a working cattle station, with accommodation for travellers, meals, an airstrip, and the only bar for hundreds of kilometres.
Bramwell Station is about 30km north of Moreton Telegraph Station, and 200km south of the tip of Cape York. There’s fuel nearby at Brawmell Junction. The accommodation closes during the wet season, but during the dry, it’s a popular stop on the journey to the tip. Contemplate the sunset from the Bramwell station bar, and think about the decision you have to make next day – will I do the gentler Bypass Road to the tip, or give the rough-as-guts Telegraph Track a go. It’s a big decision – this is a great place to ask for advice and think it through. And there’s plenty to see on the country around Bramwell.
Click on the audio player to meet Kaleena who runs the accommodation on Bramwell Station.
I HOPE THIS BLOG MIGHT TEMPT YOU TO COME & EXPLORE EFFINCUE, FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND. IT’S A GREAT PLACE TO TRAVEL, AND THE WEATHER IS KIND TO TRAVELLERS MOST OF THE YEAR.
How about this for a “winter” day forecast? Sunny, fine, top of 28 degrees. Overnight temps in the high teens, but it does get cold on the high country round Atherton in July. It gets hotter, and humid too, as we get into the summer months, but the sea breezes take the edge off that along the coast.
The best (and busiest) time to travel is during the dry, May to the end of October. We’re in the build-up to the wet season now, when temps and humidity climb. Not everyone’s cup of tea but still pretty good exploring weather. The wet season gets going around the end of December, and once the monsoon comes, travel to remote areas by road is impossible. You can still get in by air or sea but your movements will be limited once you hit the wet, boggy ground.
ON THE ROAD TO COEN IN THE RAIN
The wet is also cyclone season. Cyclones form over the warm tropical seas, sometimes coming ashore with powerful winds and incredible rain. They can do terrible damage, but they’re part of the weather pattern that makes and shapes our tropical home.
All of FNQ is within the tropics, so our weather is generally tropical. But our patch of ground is slightly bigger than Victoria, so the weather does vary from one place to another. Altitude, proximity to the sea, topography, all make for local effects on the broader tropical weather patterns.
Cape York Peninsula has its own distinctive weather patterns. The Peninsula is said to begin around the town of Laura. Draw a line on the map east to west through Laura – north of that line is Cape York Peninsula. It gets skinnier as you head north, so sea-breezes from each side meet roughly in the middle and that can generate rain and thunderstorms when other conditions are right.
And you’d think that having the sea on both sides of a narrow land area might mean more risk of cyclones on Cape York. Apparently not. Click the audio player to hear Cairns weather forecaster Leo Farrell explain Cape York weather.
LEO FARRELL IS SENIOR FORECASTER AT THE BUREAU OF METEOROLOGY CAIRNS OFFICE.
DOING LIVE RADIO CAN BE HAIR-RAISING. ESPECIALLY WHEN WE GET OUT OF THE SOUND-PROOF BOOTH IN CAIRNS AND BROADCAST FROM THE REAL WORLD. THINGS GO WRONG BUT THE SHOW MUST GO ON.
Links fail, computers freeze, batteries die. Guests don’t arrive, a thunder-storm puts the station off air. A broadcaster has to keep going, no matter how many wheels fall off the enterprise. I’ve had some challenging moments.The audio play-back system failed one afternoon, and I had to sing the ABC News theme before a local bulletin. The celebrity who turned up for an interview in a condition best described as “away with the pixies”, although I didn’t know it until we were well underway.
I’ve had all kinds of crazy moments on the radio, but none to match the day in October 2011, in the Cape York town of Coen, when a bull stampeded through our broadcast site.
We had a great spot – the front verandah of the historic Homestead Guest House. It goes back to 1933, the first building constructed in Coen, and a Cape York social hub ever since.
We were live to air, on day two of our Cape York Peninsula road trip. I was interviewing Sergeant Matt Shaw, officer in charge of the Coen police district. It’s one of the biggest police districts anywhere, and Matt was telling me about the challenges of covering such a big patch of ground. Matt’s a good talker, it’s all going well, the link to the transmitter is hanging in despite some stormy weather. Doesn’t get better than this, right?
And then the bull decided he wanted to be on the radio too. Click the audio player to hear what happened next.
THE BULL AFTER MAKING HIS RADIO DEBUT
COLIN ON THE RADIO WITH PHIL
Colin is 11. He wants to be an aeronautical engineer when he grows up. Maybe he should consider a career in radio too.
For info about the Homestead Guest House, Coen and the surrounding country go to
HOW MANY PEOPLE KNOW WHERE LOCKHART RIVER IS? “DOWN SOUTH” (THAT PART OF AUSTRALIA OUTSIDE OF FNQ) I’M WILLING TO BET VERY FEW FOLKS KNOW THE ANSWER.
Once in a while, Lockhart makes the news when a cyclone comes in off the Coral Sea. Otherwise, the rest of the nation rarely hears of the place.
But in the art world, it’s a very different story. For about ten years now, Lockhart River has been one of the best known names in indigenous art. The Lockhart River Art Gang got things going in the 90s, earning an international reputation for exciting art, It’s contemporary, but inspired by tradition. It challenged the art scene to look more broadly than the better known dot paintings and “x-ray animal” images that have been “hot” items overseas for years.
Now the Lockhart River Art Centre continues that work, encouraging new and established artists to show us what they can do.
image courtesy Lockhart River Art Centre
There’s plenty of inspiration in the country around Lockhart River. Iron Range National Park is home to creatures that occur nowhere else on earth. The coastal areas are stunning (you’ve got to check out Chillie Beach and Portland Roads!) and the area is full of places of great significance to the clans who live here.
Lockhart began life as a church mission. It moved a couple of times in the 20th century, notably around WW2. The town’s airport was built by the military then and was an important base during the Battle of the Coral Sea.These days, regular air services use the strip, so you can dodge the 800 bumpy kilometres of road from Cairns if you want. In the wet, you can only get here by air or sea. The roads can be closed for months.
Map courtesy of Lockhart R Aboriginal Shire Council
PATRICK BUTCHER IS ONE OF THE ARTISTS AT THE LOCKHART RIVER ART CENTRE. HE’S ONE OF THE ORIGINAL ART GANG MEMBERS, A PAINTER AND PRINT MAKER WITH WORKS ON SHOW IN AUSTRALIA AND OVERSEAS. AND PATRICK USUALLY HAS A LOT OF OTHER PROJECTS ON THE GO.
AUDIO: PATRICK BUTCHER TELLS PHIL STALEY ABOUT LIFE AND MAKING ART IN LOCKHART RIVER.
You can also visit www.ciaf.com.au for info about indigenous artists taking part in the annual Cairns Indigenous Art Fair
Peter Neal moved to Lockhart from Victoria in 2008 to become the manager of the Art Centre. He says it was an easy decision to swap the cold southern winters for the tropics.
In local language, the Centre uses the words Puuya Kuntha — “strong heart” — to describe itself and its role in this remote community. Peter says art is good for people, their culture, for the place and for its economy.
AUDIO: PETER NEAL TALKS ABOUT LOCKHART RIVER ART CENTRE
TEA TOWEL OR SNOW SHAKER? STUBBY COOLER OR FRIDGE MAGNET? THE MODERN MANIFESTATIONS OF AN ANCIENT TRADE. SOUVENIRS.
People have been making, taking, buying and selling them for thousands of years. They’re keep-sakes, reminders of where we’ve been, gifts for people who didn’t make the journey with us.
In October 2011 we pulled in to one of FNQ’s best known souvenir shops, set up in a tent on the last stretch of road to the tip of Cape York Peninsula.
It was early morning. We could easily have missed it in the glare and the dust. It was the big fat crocodile sunning itself out the front that caught my eye.
He’s the mascot for the Croc Tent. And is he the real deal?
Well here we are asking him that question. He was a little cagey, so you be the judge. Real croc or realistic replica?
THE ABC CAPE YORK TEAM INTERVIEW THE CROC
Dale and Lee-ann Mears run the Croc Tent these days. It opened in the 80s, on land that was once part of Lockerbie Station. Dale and Leanne love to have a yarn with visitors – so we were very happy to point a microphone at Dale.
AUDIO: DALE MEARES TELLS PHIL STALEY ABOUT THE CROC TENT