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The Changing Vision
To the people of the district driving past, it had always been there, it was a part of the landscape, to everyone it was known as the Woolshed, but no one really knew its history. It stood on the side of Bloodwood Hill overlooking Oakey Creek. No one took much notice of it until 1972, which was the year that the Government school in Jondaryan Town celebrated its centenary. The committee organising the school’s centenary celebrations, wanted to culminate those celebrations with a grand ball like they had back in the old days. This caught everyone’s attention and a large number of people wanted to attend the ball, so large a number that they couldn’t hold in in the town hall. This created a problem, they didn’t want to have to restrict the numbers, but they didn’t know where they could hold it, until someone suggested that they could hold it in the wool-room of the old Woolshed, a very fitting place, for such balls were always held there in the past. When committee members inspected the wool-room however, a seen of devastation presented itself to them, the floor had collapsed and was unusable. To most this would have been the end of the matter, but the never-say-die attitude of farmers came to the fore and with only a short time remaining before it would be needed a team of volunteers drawn from the local farming community was organised and on the appointed day a large number turned up with all the equipment, tools and materials they would need. The floor was pulled up, the joists were levelled up and supported and the floor boards were put back and replaced were necessary. It was far from a perfect dancing floor, but at least people could go on it without danger to their person.
On the night of the ball, over 1,100 people packed into the wool-room, no one was concerned however, everyone was happy to be there. This was the first time that most of the people attending had been inside the Woolshed. All were overcome by the atmosphere of the old shed and the feelings of past events pervaded their senses. What began as a feeling, quickly became a desire, a desire that continued to grow amongst the people of the district, to see the old Woolshed preserved for the future. This culminated in Lorrie and Lyn Rutledge offering to give the old Woolshed and 12 acres of land to the people if they were prepared to preserve it for the future. This gift was accepted at a public meeting called in 1973 and the many individual candles of desire that had been lit combined to form a fiery light that lit a vision of the future for the Woolshed; the sleeping giant had awakened to a brand new day. How that vision would unfold as changes had to be made along the way, were hidden in the darkness of future developments and would only come to light when the time arrived.
For all the formative years of the Woolshed Association and the development of the Woolshed complex the light that lit the vision for the Woolshed remained strong and the massive obstacles that presented themselves were overcome. Some candles were snuffed out along the way, but others were added and the vision remained strongly lit.
This was at a time when old historic things had little value and people were happy to give things to see them preserved or just to get rid of the junk lying around the place. Everything was given, old buildings, machinery, equipment and artefacts of all kinds, all of which were connected with old Jondaryan station or its time and the Woolshed historic complex grew and developed with little more than the dedicated efforts of the Woolshed volunteers in whom the vision for the Woolshed remained strong.
The sole source of income was from tourism, but most of that came from one very large event, the Australian Heritage Festival, which was run over a nine day period once a year. Almost everything was given and provided free of charge to run the festival and the volunteers came in their hundreds to run it, it was hugely successful and provided enough finance to clear the debt accrued each year. The Woolshed’s volunteer base had grown very strong and it became like a big family. Most took their holidays at festival time and it was like a big family gathering. They worked hard during the day, but most were playing with their toys and at night they made their own entertainment and had a great time; it was like the old pioneering days all over again and they loved it all.
The Woolshed Association was the first to run such a heritage festival and in the early years had it all to themselves, but other organisations, seeing the success of the Woolshed’s festival coveted it and heritage festivals began to spring up everywhere and inevitably they drew the people away from the Woolshed’s festival. What in the beginning had been provide free of charge, began to be charged for and the cost of staging the festival grew and grew until eventually it began to make a loss instead of a profit.
Inevitably changes had to be made and these conflicted with some people’s vision and volunteers began drifting away. As always happens when a group of individuals come together to undertake a common task or project there will be a conflict of personalities and politics that can cause a splintering of groups and can result in bad decisions being made that can destroy a project, no matter how worthwhile it might be. This came very close to happening to the Woolshed on a number of occasions and it was only saved by governments, Federal, State and Local, being persuaded to come to the rescue that stopped that disaster happening.
The Woolshed project always suffered from a lack of funds necessary to run, maintain and develop it, which caused enormous problems and the continuous unrelenting pressure on those trying to manage the project with little resources took its toll and brought about a dramatic change in the thinking, actions and vision in some of those who had been so committed to the project in the beginning and they deserted like rats leaving a sinking ship. Some of those in positions of power, engineered things so that they could obtain some of the most valuable things that had been gifted to the Woolshed, taking them with them when they went. This had a disastrous effect on the Woolshed project, bring it to its knees and it was only saved by an injection of finance from the Federal Government.
The council became more and more supportive of the Woolshed’s management, but the entrenched council bureaucrats remained opposed to the Woolshed and did all they could to oppose it and stop development and financial help from Council remained severely restricted. Gradually the Woolshed’s staffing problems were being overcome as the right capable staff were found and processes were put in place to enable the Woolshed to go forward with confidence. As it was shown that the Woolshed was set on a new and successful path, more and more of the old volunteers who had dropped out when the Woolshed had being taken on a path to destruction, began to return and new dedicated volunteers joined to give a much needed hand and in spite of all the restrictions and setbacks the Woolshed’s future looked very bright.