Maryborough is the kind of town where every street tells a story. For a time, it was Australia’s busiest port, despatching gold, wool and timber and receiving more than 22,000 immigrants travelling to start a new life. But long before that, this land was Butchulla country and always will be. The Maryborough Mural Project tells many of these stories through a series of vibrant murals throughout Maryborough’s heritage CBD.
Three hours north of Brisbane, not far from where humpbacks take their annual holidays, Maryborough’s street art champions its everyday heroes and those who have left an indelible mark on Australia and the world.
Maryborough is where PL Travers, the creator of the beloved Mary Poppins book series, was born. Her story and that of her other-worldly nanny are told at the unmissable Storybank interactive museum. Not a stuffy building but a monument in pictures, interactive displays and wonder-filled corners. It’s a fitting tribute to the town’s most famous citizen. Housed in the former bank where she was born, this classic Victorian is one of the CBD’s many grand buildings.
And, these splendid buildings are a testament to the region’s rich gold history. Large scale art now adorns many of their walls, and this trail has become one of Maryborough’s most popular tourist attractions.
The Maryborough Mural Project
Just this week the Maryborough Mural Project added another mural. 39 Indigenous and settler stories of heroism make these walls talk. In March, the project was awarded Silver for Best Street Art Trail at the 2020 Australia Street Art Awards. These Tourism Awards for Public Art include remote artworks up to 450 kilometres from their state capital.
Coincidentally, Maryborough was also honoured with Gold for the Best Monument or Memorial – for the Gallipoli to Armistice Memorial. This Anzac memorial depicts the first allied soldier to set foot on Gallipoli – Maryborough man Duncan Chapman. His first steps on that fateful day are memorialised with sand and pebbles from that tragic bay. Through a series of sculptures and low key monuments, World War I diggers and those they left behind are remembered.
Walking Maryborough’s stories
You can start on this colourful trail by downloading the online map – Maryborough Mural Trail or drop into the Maryborough Town Hall Visitors Centre for a map for a self-guided tour.
The project’s co-founders Elizabeth Lowrie and Deborah Hannam work tirelessly to enliven Maryborough’s streets and tell its stories.
The easy walking trail guides you through Maryborough’s historic streets and tales of love, bravery and ingenuity. From Benjamin Higgins (aka Mr Mupz) immigrant success story and his exquisite depiction of the Red Baron dragonfly to Brian Tisdall’s brave Lex and his dog who saved his siblings from their burning house.
Heroes made in Maryborough
The finest military heroes honoured include Squadron Leader Frank Lawrence, Army chaplain Reverend Philip ‘Tubby’ Clayton and Wilfred Walter Reeves, a Butchulla man who wrote the first book of Aboriginal stories authored and illustrated by Aboriginal people. However, all three men are remembered for so much more than their wartime heroics.
Reverend Philip Thomas Byard Clayton opened Talbot House in Poperinge near Ypres in December 1915 for soldiers serving on the Western Front. Soldiers were advised to leave their rank at the door and instead relaxed and rested before returning to the Front’s horrors. The minister began the Toc H movement – a volunteer organisation dedicated to building friendships and offering service throughout the community. He was awarded the Military Cross for his care and compassion that continued until his death in 1972. This work was created by Akos Juhasz.
Maryborough’s most decorated World War II veteran was Squadron Leader Frank Lawrence. He served with the Australian 460 and 467 Pathfinder Squadrons, based in England, and flew 38 missions. In early 1945 as a Flight Commander with the 460, he was instrumental in the Manna Drop to save Dutch civilians from starvation. He agreed that his participation in Operation ‘Manna’ was definitely the most emotional and rewarding experience of his entire war service. (Another story well told by Benjamin Higgins).
Also near the Military Museum, Butchulla storyteller Wilfred (Uncle Wilfie) Walter Reeves’ war service is commemorated in art by Warraba Weatherall. He enlisted and served in the 39th Battalion and saw service on the Kokoda Track. With his sister Olga Miller, Wilfred Reeves created the Legends of Moonie Jarl. His literary achievements are remembered in another mural at the Maryborough Library.
These walls do talk
This NAIDOC Week, the Maryborough Mural Project will unveil its 39th mural – the ‘Guardians of the Land’. Designed by Butchulla Elder Aunty Barbara Trevakis and painted by local artist Aunty Karen Hall it is both simple and thoughtful. This mural is a perfect reflection of NAIDOC Week 2021’s theme ‘Heal Country – Heal our Nation’.
And according to the Maryborough Mural Project Facebook page, “The mural reflects the ancient footprint as seen by Butchulla Elder Barbara Trevakis. The smaller white footprint is European colonisation, and the little footprint in rainbow coloured dots represents all the different cultures who have recently walked upon this land”.