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RM Williams Australian Bush Learning Centre, North Burnett Regional Council, Queensland

The RM Williams Australian Bush Learning Centre (RMWABLC) is nestled into the side of a hill overlooking the picturesque North Burnett township of Eidsvold, which is located in the northern catchment area of the Burnett River.

The small town of Eidsvold, like so many inland towns, has grown and contracted in line with the commerce of the day. The town first developed around pastoral leases, then exploded with gold mining, and has now consolidated with pastoral and farming activity, with the region currently experiencing resurgence in the beef industry.

In the 1930s and 40s, Eidsvold rivalled the top selling centres such as Roma, with yardings of 6000 head being a regular occurrence. The yardings have eased back over the years but beef is still a very strong focus of the region, with many renowned cattle industry identities based in the district.

On the southern edge of the Eidsvold area the citrus industry has emerged as the major rural enterprise, following the Burnett river east through Mundubbera, Gayndah on to Biggenden, Wallaville and finally to Bundaberg.

In the 1960s, RM Williams settled in the district, establishing his now well known property Rocky Bar. He was a very prominent figure in Eidsvold Society for many years, which led to the naming of the Australian Bush Learning Centre in his honour.

The RM Williams Australian Bush Learning Centre (referred to locally as the ‘RM Centre’) has had many incarnations since its initial conceptualisation a number of years ago. The current focus of the Centre arose out of the unfortunate coincidence of RM Williams’ death at a time when the project was nearing a decisive phase.

As a result, a core feature of the Centre’s display is a section dedicated to telling the story of RM Williams’ life, with particular reference to his time spent in the Eidsvold community, his achievements and his philosophies.

In the spirit of RM Williams, the Centre provides a place where locals and visitors can connect to the region’s history, heritage and the land. The Centre aims to provide an environment where all age groups feel at home, embracing the skills that made our bushman, pioneers and first Australians famous, and enjoying the opportunity to engage with contemporary arts, crafts and technology.

An important part of creating this environment is the Gallery, which exhibits new and exciting art forms every two months. These exhibitions include renowned works provided by Artslink Queensland, as well as works by local artists and historical pieces.

One of RM Williams’ core philosophies was dedicated to ‘finding the genius in everyone’, and this motto is seen as a pretty good starting point for the RM Centre.

The space is well-equipped for a diverse range of training, including first aid and computing, a mobile iPad learning centre, and classes in artisan skills, such as leather work and silver jewellery making. The Centre is also keen to support Regional Training Organisations that want to deliver services to the region, as well as running bush skill-based training when possible.

The Centre also operates as the ‘Yellow I’ Tourist Visitor Information Centre for Eidsvold and the North Burnett Region and is open seven days a week throughout the year (excluding a few significant public holidays). The professional and friendly staff have assisted hundreds of travellers and locals alike.

At the North Burnett Regional Council, it is believed the RM Williams Australian Bush Learning Centre has the potential to become a significant focal point for the community and visitors, spreading the spirit of the bush and a sense of country hospitality throughout the region and beyond.