Bert Hinkler

We stayed on an extra day in Bundaberg to visit the Botanical Gardens which is set in 27 hectares with lakes and a massive amount of wildlife. This is not normally our sort of place to visit but here they have 3 museums, the main one being the Hinkler Hall of Aviation.

Bert Hinkler was a world famous pioneer in his field. Born in Bundaberg, by the age of 19 Bert was building hand built man carrying gliders. He served with distinction in World War 1 and went on to create many aviation records, his most renowned achievement being a solo flight from England to Australia in 1928. Sadly Bert was killed in 1933 at the age of 40 attempting another solo flight from England. He is buried in Florence, Italy where he crashed and was given a state funeral by Mussolini. These pioneers were the film stars of the day in the 1920’s and thousands of people would flock to see them taking off and landing. On one of Berts first flights from Sydney to Bundaberg on landing he taxied down the road and parked outside his parents house. The museum is very modern with superb displays and they’ve even brought Bert’s old house brick by brick from Southampton, England and rebuilt it in the grounds of the Botanical Gardens.

The second museum was in Fairymead House which is a beautiful house once owned by a sugar cane farming family. There are thousands of hectares stretching for hundreds of kilometres of sugar cane growing in Queensland. They even have their own narrow gauge railway crisscrossing the roads and fields to transport the cut cane to the processing plants. Without sugar Queensland wouldn’t exist as it does. It is also a major export for Australia.

The story of how sugar cane is grown and processed is very interesting but there is a more disturbing story woven into it. Clearing land, planting and cutting cane was hard and dangerous work in the early days and considered at the time to be unsuitable for white workers. Native men and women from the Polynesian Islands were cohersed and shipped over to Australia with the promise of money. In reality it was slavery. They were known as Kanakas and the process of shipping them over in their thousands was known as ‘blackbirding’. Many died on the job and were buried in unmarked graves. Gangmasters whipped them if the job was not done up to their expectations. Most disturbuing of all is that slavery was abolished across the commonwealth but blackbirding went on for about another 70 years. Some of the stories that we read and videos that we saw were heartbreaking.

We’re now spending our last few days on a bush campsite at Inskip Point near Rainbow Beach. It’s where the barges go across to Fraser Island. There are miles of beautiful beaches and swimming. It’s where we’ll finish our fourth Oz adventure before leaving Geoffrey. Just one more diary entry to sum up this years journey.

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