The Brolga's History
Opened in July 2000, this modern building sympathetically incorporates elements of the site’s industrial heritage.
The site on which the Brolga Theatre stands has a history dating back to November 1881. Its story, however, began in 1865 when Scotsmen Andrew Wilson, James Bartholomew and Robert Hart formed a sawmilling company on the banks of the Mary River at Granville, a short distance downstream.
Two major disasters caused the timber mill to relocate to the site which is now home for the Brolga Theatre. Devastating floods covered the mill in February 1875 and claimed the life of James Bartholomew, and in 1881 it was totally destroyed by fire. Just over 50 years later it was destroyed by fire again. It was rebuilt on both occasions. Wilson Hart & Co Sawmill ceased operation in 1986 and the site was left vacant until the Brolga Theatre and Convention Centre was built.
The dream for a modern entertainment venue for the region started in 1989, around the same time performers were bypassing Maryborough due to poor acoustics at City Hall.
Following a huge community fundraising effort of $1million and with contributions from Council and the State and Federal Governments, a further $10 million dollars was raised to construct the theatre.
The external design of the Brolga Theatre building is simple, yet bold. It is conceived in the tradition of the large sheds which characterise Maryborough’s industrial heritage. A timber theme is reflected throughout the design. Timbers on the stairs and on the Foyer’s striking bar face speak of Maryborough’s timber heritage.
Why the Brolga?
The dancing bird
The Brolga Theatre takes its name from the beautiful Australian bird known for its stately dancing displays. According to Aboriginal legend, Brolga was a beautiful girl who loved to dance. The evil magician changed her into a tall, graceful bird when she refused to marry him and from that day forth they have named the bird Brolga. These charming water birds are known to forage in the swamps and waterways of the region.
Naming the Brolga
With a site and building design chosen and construction about to get underway, the tentatively titled 'Maryborough and Districts Cultural and Entertainment Centre' (catchy, we know) needed a name fitting of the region's home of arts and entertainment.
In 1999 a competition was launched to find the best name for the centre. Hundreds of entries were received from individuals and families, as well as school groups and local businesses with a myriad of suggestions.
Some of the names up for consideration included The Old Mill Theatre, Moonaboola Entertainment Centre, Maryside Entertainment Centre and Riverbend Theatre among many others, however, one impressive submission from Jocelyn Watts caught the judges' attention and the centre finally had a name – The Brolga Theatre.
In her entry Jocelyn reasoned:
“Australia’s dancing bird, the Brolga, is symbolic of what I believe the new Maryborough and District Entertainment Centre means to the Wide Bay Burnett region.”
“Famous for its stately dancing displays and known as the ‘native companion’ the Brolga is found mostly in eastern and northern Australia. Maryborough naturalist Hugh Peddie said Brolgas could be seen locally. In fact a small flock of Brolgas have inhabited the Saltwater Creek area for some 30-40 years.”
“According to Aboriginal legend, Brolga was a beautiful girl who loved to dance. The evil magician, Nonega, wanted Brolga in marriage but when the elders refused him he engulfed her in a whirlwind of dust. When the whirlwind passed, there was no sign of Brolga, but in her place was a tall graceful bird. Her friends saw the resemblance and called ‘Brolga!’. From that day forth the Aborigines have named that bird Brolga.”
Celebrating 20 years!
In 2020 we celebrate 20 years of being a part of the Fraser Coast, so we decided to take a look at what the Brolga Theatre means to members of the community.