5 May 2023

Quandialla's colourful tribute to rich pastoral history

| Edwina Mason
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Giant mural

The town of Quandialla now has a giant mural to boast about thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Quandialla Progress Association and Quandialla Soldiers Memorial Hall Association. Image: Quandialla Progress Association.

It was the railway that, in 1914, placed Quandialla on the NSW map and just last week the railway came to the village in another form that will ensure it continues to thrive.

Located on the western fringes of the NSW South West Slopes, Quandialla, with its population of around 349 people, sits at the foot of the imposing Weddin Mountains National Park which, on a good day, can be seen towering above the landscape from more than 50 km away.

Founded on the fat of the surrounding plains – The Bland – crops and livestock abound in much the same way Ben Hall did as the resident bushranger whose nearby mountainside cave remains one of the town’s greatest claims to fame.

Celebrity also comes in the form of film as the town was used as the setting of the fictional town of Bindogundra in the wartime mini-series, 1915 and is the birthplace of that elder statesman of Australian cinematography Don McAlpine.

But the residents have never forgotten that what courses through their centre was the one link to the world that ensured the town’s ultimate survival when others nearby – Bimbi and Morangarell – bypassed by rail, declined.

That’s why the king of regional railway, the C-30 class locomotive, can now be seen in vivid colour almost springing off the southern side of the town’s Soldiers Memorial Hall in a pictorial manifestation of 109 years of history.

It took Melbourne artist Simon White eight days to complete the artwork which depicts the region’s rich agricultural history against the backdrop of the nearby Weddin Mountains. Image: Quandialla Progress Association.

A brand-new mural – recently completed by artist Simon White – has the hopes and dreams of the small community pinned to its corrugated canvas in ensuring the long-term vitality of the town through tourism.

Born in Melbourne, Simon is well known for his large-scale murals across Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and NSW and this latest work adds another link to the national Silo Art Trail – which now includes street art and water towers – creating a regional loop through Grenfell, Weethalle and West Wyalong.

Marlene Taylor of the Quandialla Soldiers Memorial Hall Association said the growth of the Silo Art Trail, nationally and locally, inspired the notion of a mural in Quandialla during Progress Association meetings.

“In the planning for three years, the project is a result of a shared thought and the collaborative efforts of the Quandialla Progress Association and Quandialla Soldiers Memorial Hall Association, two entities that share the same executive team which is very common in small communities,” she said.

“Our meetings are also joint so it is easy to see how ideas become a joint enterprise,” she said.

“We knew silo murals could only work if they were privately owned or no longer in use by GrainCorp,” Marlene explained, “so the question was where we could paint a mural and how it could benefit tourism in Quandialla.

“The second question was, how do we finance it?”

The first answer lay surrounding them in the perfect canvas that is the recently renovated Quandialla Soldiers Memorial Hall and the second tick came through a Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR) grant.

“We were very lucky to be successful with our first application. These grants are the only way groups such as ours can make these projects a reality,” Marlene added.

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On 20 April, Simon began his first sketches.

Marlene said it was fascinating to watch the mural finally come to life through its many layers.

The story starts in true memorial hall style, with a soldier, playing the bugle, centred in a field of poppies, paying homage to Quandialla’s local service men and women.

This segues to scenes depicting the rich history of the agriculture against a backdrop of the Weddin mountain range.

Large mural on a building

The new mural forms part of a local loop of silo and street art located in nearby Grenfell, Weethalle and West Wyalong. Image: Quandialla Progress Association.

The bugler was completed in time for Anzac Day services in the town.

“Although it was never our intention to have it completed for Anzac Day, it was simply scheduling that brought Simon White to Quandialla to start the mural just before Anzac Day,” Marlene said. “It was a huge effort on his part to have that section for Anzac Day.”

Eight days later the entire mural was complete, and it hasn’t just created a buzz in the streets, but on social media, reaching 3400 people in just a week.

It’s just the impact the Quandialla Progress Association was seeking.

They’re hoping word reaches the ears of visitors seeking the road less travelled.

“Like many villages sustainability is strongly linked to tourism,” Marlene said. “One of our goals is to support the community and local business and this can be done by moving tourists off main roads and through Quandialla.

“We hope to encourage people to camp and stay at Quandialla whilst enjoying not just what our region has to offer, but what Quandialla has to offer,” she added.

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With just the interior floors to be refinished and curtains, courtesy of Inland Rail, to be hung there’s talk of a celebration when the hall reopens its doors for the first time since COVID-19 lockdowns.

Meanwhile another mural is underway in nearby West Wyalong, with a tribute to the gold history and agricultural heritage of the Bland Shire and West Wyalong being painted on the side of the White Tank Hotel by Mongolian street artist Heesco, who created the artwork on the side of a Weethalle silo – the first silo art project in NSW – in 2017.

Quandialla is situated at the western edge of the Weddin Shire, 46 km southwest of Grenfell and 65 km southeast of Young.

For more information on coming events or local sights visit Quandialla Matters on Facebook.

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