The ghosts of two men were prominent at the opening of Winton’s $23m sparkling new Waltzing Matilda Centre on Friday.
One was represented by a statue of AB “Banjo Paterson” whose famous song Waltzing Matilda was written in this region and his statue survived the fire that destroyed the old WMC on June 18, 2015.
The second was an empty chair representing the late Winton Mayor Graham “Butch” Lenton whose vision it was to replace the WMC and who sadly died in office last year.
His replacement Gavin Baskett accompanied the Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove and his wife Lady Cosgrove to the opening and the couple of honour officially opened the new centre in front of thousands of people in town for the Way Out West festival.
Bill Gorham from the Koa people conducted a smoking ceremony which MC Peter Lewis said was wisely kept well away from the building given the fate of the last building.
Sir Peter called Banjo Paterson an iconic Australian and the Centre was a great tribute to his legend.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk also spoke and said she was proud to be here despite the competing attractions of a Queensland trade delegation to London and a Brisbane ticker tape parade for Commonwealth Games athletes.
New Winton Mayor Gavin Baskett said the new centre was a tribute to Butch Lenton’s vision.
The highlight was a short performance from John Williamson who sang True Blue followed by Paterson’s anthem Waltzing Matilda.
Appropriately the choir was the AB Paterson chamber choir from the Gold Coast. Winton mayor Gavin Baskett praised the work of Northern Queensland builders A. Gabrielli Constructions who built the Centre with funds from all three levels of government.
He also said the late Mayor Butch Lenton was a guiding force both for his council and for the construction of the Centre which insisted would happen almost as soon as the old one burned down.
The original centre was built in 1998 but an electrical fault in a storeroom led to the centre being destroyed in 2015.
Waltzing Matilda Centre director Casey Vallance said the new building was designed to reflect the spirit of the outback and become a new icon for tourism in the region.
"The Centre was designed to reflect the significance of this iconic Australian song through an architecture and interpretative experience," Mr Vallance said.