Dinosaurs come to Maryborough

TWO hundred million years ago dinosaurs roamed this land. Today, they’re here again in the magnificent Maryborough City Hall, brought to life by the wonders of science, technology and innovation.

Welcome to Explore-a-saurus – the award-winning $1million Scitech exhibition, direct from Perth.

I acknowledge the traditional owners of this land and welcome dignitaries, guests, family and friends to this wonderful exhibition that celebrates Maryborough’s place in history as a major centre of engineering excellence and marks a new beginning for the city’s rejuvenation.

This exhibition is just what the legendary Mary Poppins, whose creator was born just streets away, would have prescribed for this proud but forgotten city that’s in need of more than a spoon full of sugar to boost its confidence.

When our forefathers settled on the banks of the Mary River 170 years ago, they had visions of grand industries, businesses and homes. Over time, through masterful entrepreneurship and sheer determination their dreams became reality.

The Hyne dynasty gave birth to what is now a world class timber processing company. Warren Persal’s cabling company built 90 per cent of the power transmission lines in central Queensland.

The endeavours of Thomas Braddock, George Furber, Edgar Aldridge and many more are all featured in the Fraser Coast Chronicle’s latest product, Faces that Shaped the Region.

Another stand-out identity is George Ambrose White who gifted the funds needed to build this magnificent city hall in which we now stand, but is grossly underutilised.

Sadly, through the constant erosion of our facilities and services to other centres over recent years, this entire city which was once the hub of the Wide Bay region is fast becoming a dinosaur village.

But as our former mayor Alan Brown often said: “Out of our past is our future”.

This dinosaur exhibition is everything that Maryborough once stood for, and to my mind, will again.

It has taken the talents of Scitech’s skilled mechanical engineers, computer programers and entrepreneurs to bring these prehistoric creatures to life.

By focusing on science, technology, innovation, engineering and entrepreneurship,  this struggling city can also be rejuvenated beyond our wildest dreams.

Dinosaur exhibition the first of many

Today’s official opening of Explore-a-saurus is the first step towards that dream.

Maryborough needs to be reinvented, and logic dictates that it should be based on science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship.

I’m all for “use what you’ve got” and we have a magnificent city hall that is so underused.

Maryborough is home to the RACQ Technology Challenge, Queensland’s largest youth technology event. We can take that to a new  level.

My dream is that after this exhibition is a proven success, we have rolling exhibitions here all the time.  People will come to know there’s always something happening they can come and see.

If it’s raining in Hervey Bay, come up to Maryborough to see the latest exhibition at the city hall.

Scitech has many exciting exhibitions such as this  – humanoids, backyards, spaceships, helicopters, jet skies and climbing walls just to name a few.

All those exhibitions include educational resources for school students.

Local teachers and their colleagues in Gympie, Bundaberg, Gayndah, Biggenden, Mundbubbera and Murgan could bring their students here in buses, not only to see the dinosaurs but also learn about their heritage with the city’s genealogy and history groups.

Out-of-town visitors might also go to the wildlife park or military museum.

Businesses could lever off any of these exhibitions.

For example, Maryborough’s CBD businesses have embraced this dinosaur exhibition with gusto.

The council asked eight businesses to make special offers on the back of the entry ticket – we had more than 30 business sign up!

My ultimate dream is for Maryborough to become the innovation centre of Queensland.

A step towards that dream would be to encourage Scitech to build an east coast branch within this region. Now, when similar exhibitions are held in Brisbane or Sydney, Scitech guys come over from Perth to set it up and then return home.

If something goes wrong, a guy flies over to fix it and then returns to Perth. At the end of the exhibition, they come over again, pack it all up and take the containers back to Perth.

I’m saying: “Leave with us in Maryborough – we can fix them and store them.”

It’s all about collaboration, such as seen in the excellent partnership Maryborough has with University of Southern Queensland in the study hub it opened last July in the education precinct.

Students of all ages now have access to fee-free pathway programs that will set them in the right direction towards achieving their career dreams.

Do we dare to dream too?

Recently a young father asked me if there was a future for him and his children in this city.

I said to him: “That’s a very sensible question that you ask yourself at your age. Should you leave this city and go somewhere else? The choice is entirely yours, but just maybe you could be part of the this city’s rejuvenation, but you’ll need to contribute towards that.”

Yes, you could leave this city and do well. A lot of people have left and gone on to be wonderful successes in all avenues of life. There is an amazing list of extreme high achievers who have come out this city – just go into Wharf Street and see their names on the footpath in the Maryborough Achiever’s Walk.

“It’s not that long ago the people of Maryborough boasted about these achievements, but along with the city’s drop in morale over recent years, that’s been lost.

Let’s boast again. Maryborough has much of which to be proud. The time is now to dream again. Can we do it, or will we dwell on the negatives? I won’t. I want to spend my life around positive people and create a city in which parents can confidently raise their children knowing they have futures here.

Let’s sprinkle some Mary Poppins magic around and dare to dream again … around science, innovation and entrepreneurship, harnessing the wisdom of our older residents such as engineering legend Peter Olds to help the young innovators bring their dreams to reality.

Technology is here to stay. I’ve been told that ambulance drones are now being used to assist people resuscitate heart attack victims as they wait for paramedics to arrive.

And, Amazon now delivers books by drones – buy a book online and a drone automatically goes to the factory, collects the book and delivers it to your front  porch.

That’s technology for you. Maybe one day you’ll get your groceries or pizzas delivered by drones.

Who knows what the future holds? Maryborough could be part of that technology evolution and this dinosaur exhibition is just the start.

Let’s all get behind it – bring your families, invite your relies, gather school classes and enlist community groups! It will all help towards building a better future for Maryborough.

Young Eliza who will cut the ribbon with me today is mad keen on becoming a paleontologist. How good is it that she can visit this exhibition any time between now and April without leaving her town? That gives her four months to absorb mountains of information.

Let us help Eliza and other kids like her fulfill their dreams by making this dinosaur exhibition the first of many.

Many people have been involved in bringing this dinosaur exhibition to fruition. They include:

  • Fraser Coast Council, particularly Lisa Stephenson and CEO Lisa Desmond.
  • The Scitech crew – Mike and Lawson who traveled from Perth and New Zealand to manage the construction.
  • Paul Stumkat – visiting paleontologist and natural history artist who prepared the dinosaurs.
  • Council’s Cultural Services team, particularly:
    • Les Alberts who has come on-board to coordinate the exhibition’s day-to-day running;
    • The tec crew including Jo, Adam, Brendan and Jono who worked in very hot conditions to assist in the build;
    • Trevor Rickert who has shown his creative genius in building the pop up Cretaceous Bar for opening tonight;
    • Janice, Darryl, Kelli and Vanida for setting up the ticketing system, procedures, processes and general fluffing; and
    • EM Debra Moore, Gen and Laura who are from the council’s extended team and stepped in to assist with logistics that you can’t even begin to imagine were necessary.
  • The more than 40 and counting volunteers who have joined up to assist, particularly:
    • Kelli MacGregor and her volunteer artist recruits who have created and will run the Jurrasic Jungle craft activities
  • The Fraser Coast Visitor Information Centre and tourism team for their support and ongoing partnership in the sale of tickets.
  • Maryborough Chamber and the businesses who have come on-board and embraced the cooperative marketing opportunity.

If I have inadvertently missed someone from this list I humbly apologise.

Mary Poppins statue, Maryborough, Queensland.

Mary Poppins statue, Maryborough, Queensland.

To quote a line from the Mary Poppins’ song A Spoon full of Sugar, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and – SNAP – the job’s a game!”

And how fun is this? Welcome and enjoy.

–  Spoken and authorised by Fraser Coast Regional Councillor CHRIS LOFT; written by JOCELYN WATTS; December 11, 2014.



A truly outstanding speech with passion, past achievements, future possibilities and local emotive markers all woven into a well-flowing narrative. Well done.

–  GRAHAM HILL, Lea Group, Leadership Education Australia.

Students get set to face off

Fraser Coast students will put their minds to the test when they compete in this year’s USQ Fraser Coast Science and Engineering Challenge this Tuesday (May 7) at the Hervey Bay PCYC.

Schools will be faced with activities such as:

  • Gold Fever – Building a small bridge from balsa, pins, tape, paddle pop sticks etc. Points are awarded for strength and load-carrying capacity (tested with dynamic loads).
  • Catapult  – This activity involves constructing a catapult from timber dowel, packing tape and rubber bands. Points are awarded for the catapult’s ability to propel a tennis ball over distance and hit a target.
  • Hover Frenzy – Students must construct a small hovercraft from motorised propulsion units, Styrofoam trays, balsa, plastic and tape. Scoring is based on manoeuvrability, speed, and ability to negotiate obstacles.
  • Helter Skelter Shelter – Students construct a tall earthquake-proof tower using only basic materials, sound engineering principles, and ingenuity. At the end of the session the towers are put to the test on an earthquake simulator

USQ Fraser Coast event co-ordinator Stephanie Bayley said Hervey Bay High School, Xavier Catholic College, Fraser Coast Anglican College, St Mary’s Catholic College, Maryborough State High School, Aldridge State High School and Riverside Christian College would compete for the regional title on Tuesday.

The challenge will get underway at 9.30am and finish at about 2.45pm with the spectacular testing of the bridges and celebrity challenge.

Ms Bayley said that in addition to the program of past challenges, this year USQ Fraser Coast Executive Manager Brett Langabeer and Mayor Gerard O’Connell would attempt to build a bridge using the same materials as the students. Their handicap will be that they only have half the time the students have to design, construct and test the bridge. Testing will start at 2pm.

“The Fraser Coast’s winning school last year, Aldridge State High School, did very well and has set a high standard for this year’s regional event. All activities are designed to show students the practical side of careers in science and engineering.”

The Challenge runs in every state and territory of Australia. In 2012 over 20,000 students participated nationally.

Local volunteers from the combined Rotary clubs of Hervey Bay along with USQ staff support the challenge and, like the students, look forward to being involved. The challenge is a fun event that aims to give the participating students a more realistic view of what a career in technology would involve.

Mr Langabeer said: “We need to inspire young people and show them that creativity is an integral part of any career in science and engineering.  Scientists and engineers investigate and solve problems and, whilst theory is a vital part of this work, it is just as important to be innovative and creative.”

Ms Bayley and Mr Langabeer wish to thank all those involved in the challenge in particular the University of Newcastle and the combined Rotary Clubs of Hervey Bay.

This Inspiring Australia initiative is supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education and supported locally by Engineers Australia, Tony McVey Pty Ltd, Wide Bay Water, Fraser Coast Regional Council, and Opus.

Caption: Aldridge State High School edged out Xavier Catholic College and Riverside Christian College last year to win the 2012 Science and Engineering Challenge Fraser Coast title. Pictured front left is Aldridge State High School Head of Science Department Iain Carson. Photo: JOCELYN WATTS

Hervey Bay astronomers reach for the stars

The overwhelming success of the solar eclipse viewing on USQ Fraser Coast’s grassed area in November has inspired the Hervey Bay Astronomical Society to “reach for the stars” with more viewings and events.

There is also talk of possibly building a public observatory in Hervey Bay.

 “We had a lot more people than expected attend the transit of Venus and partial eclipse in November, and after lots of positive feedback we’ve decided to hold more events this year to flag our existence and encourage more members to join us,” society president Joe Mather said.

“It has also strengthened our long-term dream to build a public observatory in Hervey Bay.

“That’s a fairly ambitious dream so we need to gauge the level of interest first, then its viability and investigate possible funding sources.”

The initial part of that process is to hold a series of public events, the first of which is an astronomy night this Saturday (May 4) from 5.45 pm to 8.30 pm in USQ Fraser Coast’s car park at 161 Old Maryborough Road, Hervey Bay.

“The evening will start with a 10-minute presentation in a lecture hall, while there is still some light in the sky to show pictures and explain what we are attempting to find. Then we will show people how to use averted vision techniques to see distant galaxies and gas nebulae when normal central focusing shows nothing in the eyepiece.”

Mr Mather said Mayor Gerard O’Connell, councillors and other VIPs would be invited to attend the evening with their families.

“We encourage families to make a night of it and bring along fish and chips or other snacks to eat.”

Following this Saturday’s event, local dignitaries and state and interstate professionals will be invited to attend the society’s observing nights at Robert and Jan Jocumsen’s Takura Observatory and its monthly meetings.

“The observing nights are held on Saturdays closest to a new moon and begin with a short workshop on fixing/aligning/repairing astronomical telescopes, followed by a barbecue and chin-wag while the scope temperatures stabilise. Then we enjoy many hours viewing deep space nebulae, remnants of dead stars, globular clusters and whatever else we can find.

“Our meetings are held in USQ Fraser Coast’s Room C205 at USQ on Wednesdays, two weeks after Observing nights.

“Besides presentations on astrophotography, latest NASA discoveries and Astral DVDs, we encourage members to pass on any specialised knowledge they have to the rest of the group such as servo-controlled telescopes which automatically point to thousands or astronomical objects held in their databases, or Wi-Fi control using Planetarium software running on smartphones and/or tablets, or just plain telescope maintenance.

Meeting dates can be found at the group’s website at, along with pictures of past nights, shots of the Takura Observatory and examples of long time-base and stacked shots of deep space objects.

WHEN: Saturday, May 4 from 5.45 pm to 8.30 pm.

WHERE: USQ Fraser Coast, 161 Old Maryborough Rd, Hervey Bay.

COST: Free, but gold coin donations to cover costs are most welcome

For more information log into, email, or phone 0419 461 532.


Hervey Bay Astronomical Society

From a casual group of observing enthusiast in 2008 to incorporation as the Hervey Bay Astronomical Society Incorporated in January 2010, the group has retained deep interests in the cosmos, night sky observing, the science of astronomy, and astrophotography.

Hervey Bay Astronomical Society holds one dark sky observing session and one education night each month, as well as special public events such as the November Solar Eclipse Viewing at USQ Fraser Coast.

Group membership varies from beginners to advanced astronomers but all have the same passion for astronomy and teaching others about the wonders in the day and night skies.

Interested people are welcome to attend a meeting to assess if it is something from which they could enjoy and learn the information they can pass on to others.